Jade Walker gets JobShadowed about her career as a journalist. You can find Jade on her website www.jadewalker.com and on her Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
I’m a journalist. Currently I work as the overnight editor for The Huffington Post.
How would you describe what you do?
I write and produce news stories. In other words, I cover the history of now.
What does your work entail?
Researching and reporting current events. Writing compelling headlines, stories and news alerts. Creating slideshows. Answering reader questions. Sharing news on social media. Editing content. Producing the front page of the website. And dealing with a ton of of email (on average, more than 400 messages a day).
What’s a typical work week like?
I work from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., Sunday through Thursday. Each shift is different. And if news breaks over the weekend, I’m basically on call.
How did you get started?
I wrote a letter to the editor that was published in a local newspaper in 1989. That fall, I joined my school newspaper as a cub reporter. The following year, I was named editor-in-chief and landed an internship at a local weekly. The weekly hired me three months later.
What do you like about what you do?
I love keeping the public updated about current events, particularly during troubling times. If readers have solid, factual information about the world around them, they are better prepared to act in service of themselves and others.
What do you dislike?
Journalism is stressful. The hours are rough, the pay isn’t great, the industry is in flux (no one’s job is considered “safe”)… and then there’s the fact that I spend several hours a day dealing with death and destruction.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
How much do you make?
How much money did/do you make starting out?
When I started out, I worked for free as an intern. Once I became a general assignment reporter, I made about $7/hour.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
No schooling is required, though a bachelor’s degree is often preferred. This means you will be poor for a very long time (hell, I’m still paying off student loans and I’ve been in the business for over 20 years). That said, I believe journalism is a career that’s best learned on-the-job. For this, having a great and patient editor is key.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Learning how to leave work at work, particularly when news is still breaking. I have, in the past, worked myself into a state of exhaustion (hospitalization was required).
Of course, news is always breaking, and many journalists get burned out if they don’t step away sometimes.
What is most rewarding?
Serving the readers. Affecting change. Keeping powerful forces/governments/individuals in check. Inspiring conversations.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Be curious. Pay attention to what’s happening all over the world, not just in your immediate vicinity. Read a wide variety of news sources and develop a critical eye for bullshit/lies. Become a good observer and a caring listener. And when you write, aim for a clear and compelling narrative, but fact-check everything. Most importantly, don’t go into journalism for the money.
How much time off do you get/take?
About 2 weeks a year.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That all journalists are biased and heartless bottom feeders willing to sell our souls or screw over anyone for a story. Most reporters work very hard to keep their biases in check. I had friend once say to me, “I’ve seen you write stories about Republicans doing stupid things, and I’ve seen you write stories about Democrats doing or saying stupid things. Which are you: a Republican or a Democrat?” I responded, “Neither, I’m anti-stupid.”
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
I’d like to write more books, move overseas and launch an obituary wire service.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
Although journalism is incredibly rewarding, it can be very hard on relationships. I’ve had more than one ex-boyfriend become upset when I needed to leave a romantic dinner to deal with breaking news. Thankfully, the man I married is completely understanding and supportive. Being able to work on deadline and raise a family at the same time is also quite difficult. Sacrifices will have to be made. However, if you love the work, your life will never be boring.