Shadowing a giant
Neshaminy student shadows prominent journalist
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The clouds were too charcoaled and ominous, almost paradoxically so, for the occasion. With rain apparently imminent, I hurried into a high rise on 801 Market Street, ornamented with a plaque reading “The Inquirer, Daily News, and philly.com.” Beyond the doors and security desk awaited a shadowing opportunity only formally recognized in my dreams.
The Pultizer-Prize winning journalist I was shadowing, Kristen Graham, was the sister of my family doctor, who connected me with her esteemed sibling after I told her of my interest in journalism. The experience was enlightening, and the revelations gained would be both useful and fascinating for all types of students. And so, in order to best optimize the fluff-to-stuff ratio, I compiled a list of the more profound of these revelations.
Clicks Matter in the Newsroom
One streak among the many highlights of the trip was the editor’s meeting, where, in a confusing act of linguistic deception, the editors met and discussed the news of the day. Particularly notable about this meeting was the presence of a large conference board, whose screen was filled with the homepage of the paper’s website. Only, the titles of the various articles were augmented with a view-count to their side. In this brave new world, clicks truly matter, and they frequently led the discussion in terms of worthy (i.e.viral) stories.
Journalism Degrees Matter Less
Out of all the questions I had anxiously awaiting to be answered, the most pressing one was the matters of degrees. More specifically, which type of college degree was most necessary for aspiring journalists? The answer I received from Graham was relieving: “Your experiences matter more than your degree.” Though she herself had an old-fashioned journalism degree, Graham introduced me to two fellow employees to prove her thesis. Practically chosen at random, these two journalists admitted that their undergraduate majors were Business and Communications, and confirmed that interning, finding the right connections, and writing for the college newspaper would take writers further than any single degree.
Middle Class Living, Plus You Can Sleep at Night
No doubt, journalism appears to be an intimidating field. With the amount of job openings expected to decrease by nine percent and median salaries starting around $37,000, journalists seem to suffer from both short demand and short shrift; the burgeoning impact of the Internet (and the staggering number of choices offered by it) certainly plays a role in this apparent instability. Graham is confident, however, that the field will eventually stabilize in this new digital age. She also affirmed that, while newcomers might face difficulty in gaining entrance, those who do make it past the gates can expect a healthy middle-class life, along with the benefit of working in a field capable of changing the world for the better.
The Playwickian Plays in the Big League
One of the more pleasantly surprising tidbits I gleaned from the experience came in the form of a quizzical editor. During the aforementioned meeting, after I was introduced to the gathered editors, one of them asked me if I wrote for The Playwickian. When I answered in the affirmative, he followed up by proclaiming: “That’s great. Y’know, you guys have one of the best student papers by a mile!” High praise, and I was certainly willing to accept it on behalf of my fellow journalists-in-training.
After the shadowing was over, I walked out into a Philadelphia that had seemingly offended Zeus himself. With rain pelleting the sidewalks, making them ever slicker, I took refuge in a bus stop decorated with posters and inhabited by only one fellow refuge. Since sharing shelter from the storm was a strong-enough bond, he began to ask questions, like if I was a movie buff, or if five dollars for 15 movies on DVD was a good deal or what.
“Sorry, man,” I said. “I got no money on me.”
“It’s alright, brother, it’s alright. I know how that is.”
This modern-day street merchant found his hustle. Hopefully I just found mine.