Tag Archives: j-school baggage

Social Media Make Me Who I Am

14 Nov

Social media make me who I am. This has nothing to do with my job or with spending lots of time on social media (because I don’t, really). Social media make me who I am because of all the decisions social media force me to make with every tweet, every status update and every blog post.

Social media force me to decide what music I like, what my political views are, or even what I did tonight. Of course, those views and preferences and facts exist regardless of Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. But whether I share them with my online networks, and on what terms, comes down to a bunch of tiny, semi-conscious editorial decisions. I may decide to tweet about the new Radiohead album, but not the new Barenaked Ladies. I may post a photo from my trip to Austin for SXSW, but not my trip to Miami to stay with my snowbird grandma. I’m happy to take a potshot at the Tea Party, but my thoughts on Israel/Palestine may be a little too nuanced and touchy to expose to Likes, comments or @ replys.

You may call the product of these editorial decisions my “brand,” but that makes it seem like I’m trying to sell something. I prefer to call it my public self. Personally, I’m not ready to embrace the sort of radical transparency espoused by digital utopians like Jeff Jarvis. There are some things I’d prefer to keep to myself. Part of this is probably J-School baggage. A journalist never carries a sign at a protest or reveals which candidate he supports, my journalism professors taught me. Part of this is probably middle child syndrome. When I was five I refused to let my birthday party guests sing happy birthday, my parents love to remind me; I didn’t like the attention.

Picture a Venn diagram with two circles, one private, one public. Our social media selves exist in the sweet spot where the circles intersect. The big innovation of Google+ was that it allowed us to keep those circles apart. But, as Farhad Manjoo has noted, keeping them apart can be tedious, “like creating a seating chart for your wedding.” I don’t want to make all those decisions all the time. I don’t want to cultivate a “family self” and a “professional self” and a “high school friends” self.

Having one public self forces me to decide how sarcastic I am (trying to tone it down), how silly I’m willing to look (pretty silly) and what I’m ready to go to bat for (black licorice, Entourage, Beyoncé). And over time those decisions form a pretty complete picture of who I am. Whether I Like it or not


Where I Am

15 Nov

I’m a bad blogger, and not just because it’s been four months since my last update. Yes, the previous post is dated February 28th, but I actually turned this site into my travel blog while I was in Europe this summer. Realizing how out of place those posts were, I decided to move them to my new travel writing page. That got me thinking about what this blog is about and whether my original premise ­– beginning a career at the end of journalism – still holds up two years later. So consider this post a clearing of the throat, an attempt to figure out how to move forward by looking at where I am in my career and how I got here.

I launched this site just over two years ago when I truly was beginning a career at the end of journalism (as we know it). It also seemed like I was beginning a career at the end of the world as we knew it. Just a month earlier, Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, triggering the biggest and scariest financial crisis since – as you’ve heard countless time before – The Great Depression. Barack Obama’s historic election victory was a week away and the world was in a state of nervous anticipation.

At the time, I was living at the epicenter of all this, a journalism student working as a reporter in Washington, DC. I remember visiting the White House for the first time and being more impressed by the modest, less iconic building next door, the Treasury Department. If an unpopular and overwhelmed lame duck President lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue surely contained the men and women who would or would not save the world.

Six weeks and four days after election night I returned to Montreal. I finished up my thesis, overhauled the blog, and began searching for a job at what might have been the worst time, in the worst industry, in the worst market I could have picked – an English journalism job in Montreal during the heart of the Great Recession. Because of my American degree, I was eligible to work in the States for a year and sent off countless CVs and cover letters for entry-level newspaper jobs and magazine internships as far-flung as New Mexico and the Northwest Territories.

Of course, I was competing with hundreds of recently laid-off veteran reporters and fellow fresh J-School graduates for a rapidly dwindling number of positions. I got a couple “Wait, can you even work in the States?” emails and a few “Sorry, not hiring but we’ll keep your resume on file” formalities but that was pretty much it. In the meantime, I honed my craft writing for Masc magazine and at one point nearly moved to Ottawa to write Web copy for Michael Ignatieff who I could have sworn would be Prime Minister by now.

During this time, I did what every good job hunter is supposed to do. I reached out to former teachers and mentors, set up meetings with people in the field whom I admired (or had some tenuous connection to) and cold called a few wish-list publications. I had a great phone chat with Jordan Timm, then at The Walrus and now at Canadian Business, who is a friend of a friend of my girlfriend. Jordan was generous and helpful and said that if my heart wasn’t 100% in the game, that if there was anything else in the world I’d be happy to do other than journalism, to run for my life. I spoke to my thesis advisor at B.U., the amazingly empathetic Boston Globe alum Mitch Zuckoff, and essentially asked his permission to do something else – something that’s not quite journalism – until things picked up. I spoke to my former editor at the New London Day, who said she would love to hire me if only they were hiring.  Continue reading