Monday, April 6, 2009

10 Tips for Being a Successful Journalist

In a recent speech at the Columbia Journalism School, BusinessWeek editor-in-chief Stephen Adler offered ten things that magazine journalism programs don’t tell their students. It's good stuff:

1. Your career will probably depend on luck.

2. Few journalists write really well, so you have an advantage if you can, especially as editing resources shrink.

3. Despite the current hard times, students have an advantage over professionals because they have tech skills, and aren’t entrenched in the hierarchy.
4. Attitude counts more than ever.

5. You’ve got to get known, because editors tend to hire people they already know.

6. Be essential, not discretionary.

7. Advertisers have much more power than ever, and that’s an enormous problem.

8. An editor-in-chief spends less than half his time doing anything even remotely journalistic.

9. Analog dollars make digital pennies, but online may save the industry.

10. The skills of a journalist have value, even if it’s not in journalism.

Shannon Davis

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tooting My Own Horn

With so many magazines folding, with so many writers and editors sweating about losing their jobs or getting wage cuts, with so much uncertainty in our field, it's damn nice to hear some good news once in a while.

Yesterday, the American Society of Magazine Editors announced the category finalists for their 2009 National Magazine Awards, and let's just say it was an overwhelmingly awesome day for Backpacker magazine. We received four nominations, including one each in the brass-ring categories of General Excellence for both print and online.

The oft-used analogy for these awards is that they are the Oscars of the magazine world. That would make "General Excellence" like "Best Picture." The other nominees in our category are The Atlantic, New York, Texas Monthy, and W. Pretty stiff competition. To paraphrase my elated boss, Backpacker, a niche publication with a funny name getting more nods than titles like Vanity Fair who can throw millions at a single story "is as unlikely as squeezing a grizzly into a Nalgene bottle." But we did. Not only that, but every facet of our brand was recognized with nominations: print, online, and maps. It was a good day (and the 18 year old scotch tasted mighty fine during our mid-afternoon toast yesterday).

Beyond patting ourselves on the back, though, the National Magazine Awards give us a great opportunity, as writers and editors, to celebrate what we're doing right in our ever-changing industry. Winners, who receive the coveted Ellie trophy (top left) will be announced on April 30th in New York City.

Shannon Davis, Backpacker magazine

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Freelance jobs inOhio

Hey Cleveland, Columbus and Akron: How well do you know your city? Issue
Media Group (, the online publisher of in Cincinnati and in Detroit, among others
is looking for writers, editors, photographers and videographers who know
the ins and outs of their cities -- not the obvious tourist attractions but
also the places you dont know unless a local shows you. We're looking for
people who love these cities, who want to engage others in their cities and
who can dig deep and turn out compelling stories, photos and videos about
their cities. We have freelance opportunities and some part-time work
available. Experience with web publishing is a plus. Knowledge of city
dining, arts, music and other scenes is another plus. Knowledge of urban
living and emerging new economy business is another plus. If this sounds
like you, please send clips and resumes to editor Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey at

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Registration Open for Scripps Senior Saturday on Jan. 31

The annual Scripps Senior Saturday will be held from 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009, in Scripps Hall. Sponsored by the Scripps Society of Alumni & Friends, this free event is held each year to help prepare graduating journalism students for their job searches. Seniors receive resume critiques and advice on their portfolios, cover letters, job hunting strategies, and more. Last year’s event drew 109 graduating seniors, the most ever!

The keynote speaker is Ernest Hayes, director of human resources for the E. W. Scripps Company, who will cover the basics of the job search process. There are also panels for the different sequences (i.e. public relations, magazine, news writing and editing/online journalism, advertising management, and broadcast), for students to connect with professionals and alumni in their fields. In addition, a panel of recent grads will share insider tips for being a valuable – and happy – first-year employee.

Students wanting to attend should email Sharon Case at with their name and sequence by Jan. 28.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Death of Print = Rebirth of Journalism?

For those of us working in the trenches of the journalism world, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day frenzy of just doing our jobs. But the bad economic climate—and troubles in our industry—is bringing philosophical question about journalism to the forefront.

For example, The Atlantic ran an intriguing article asking, What if the New York Times ceased print publication? What would that mean for journalism?

Author Michael Hirschorn takes an optimistic view, asserting that rather than killing “real” journalism, the death of print could actually help it. “Over the long run, a world in which journalism is no longer weighed down by the need to fold an omnibus news product into a larger lifestyle-tastic package might turn out to be one in which actual reportage could make the case for why it matters, and why it might even be worth paying for.”

Of course, that’s contingent on media companies finding a profitable online profitable business model (so they can employ qualified, skilled journalists), and that hasn’t happened yet. But it’s an interesting idea to ponder.

—Allison Stacy, Publisher/Editorial Director, Family Tree Magazine

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Would You Run This Photo?

Funny things happen in the mountains, which is one perk to working at a mountain town newspaper. Our assistant online editor used to work at The Vail Daily, and as he was searching the blogoverse this morning (I hate the word "blogosphere"), he checked in at his old news paper and found a story and photography of some poor skier who'd fallen off the chairlift and was dangling, naked from the waist down, from the chair. Rescuers got to him pretty quickly, but not before another skier snapped some digital photos.

The Vail Daily decided to run the photos, which made Vail Resort pretty angry. The link below is a response from the paper's editor on why they decided to run the photo. What would you do? I'm curious to hear from SAF and students alike. ...I asked around our office, and most of us feel choosing to run it in the paper was in poor taste. Online? Sure. At least there you can warn people that they're about to see some bare, hairy buttocks.

(warning: in addition to insightful commentary, link contains an image of said buttocks)

~Shannon Davis, Backpacker Magazine

Monday, January 5, 2009

A little insight as to what Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends is up to this month...

SENIOR SATURDAY: Our annual event provides senior students with advice, tips, one-on-one consultations and other valuable information through panel discussions and workshops led by Scripps alumni. The day is focused on getting a job in the current job market and succeeding during the first year on the job and beyond. Last year's event was Feb. 16 and drew 109 graduating seniors, the most ever! The 2009 event will be held on January 31st, 2009 – we encourage current seniors to attend!

Seniors: To sign up, please contact Sharon Case <> to register!