“I became a newspaperman. I couldn’t find honest employment.” – Mark Twain
This would be your non-traditonal curriculum vitae. A more traditional American-style resume is here, of course – short and sweet. But like a news story, while it may cover all the facts, facts don’t necessarily tell the whole story. This won’t tell you the whole story either, but it will give you more of an idea of my skill set, how I came by it and what I can do with it – whether it is writing, editing, search engine optimization, or Web development.
The Internet and the World Wide Web
I’ve been working on the Internet – so to speak — in one capacity or another since 2002, when I experienced first hand the transition (some might say bloodbath) as journalism and news continued to evolve from a purely physical, print medium to a virtual, online one as well. Along the way I’ve had to learn a lot new things and develop new skills to complement those of research, writing and editing.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
- various corporate/proprietary CMS, including those of Advanstar and eLogic/Reed Business Information
Web Programming Languages
It’s a good thing that I began learning to program Basic back in eighth grade, and later Pascal in high school – yes I’m quite old, in computer science years. With that nerdy background learning to code HTML and PHP came relatively easy.
In one sense, my journalism career has followed a not untypical arc, but then I’ve had my share of color and excitement, too. I’ve been fortunate to cover a lot of environmental, science and health issues, as well as high technology – all subjects that fascinate me. I’ve hobnobbed with celebrities and Fortune 500 CEOs on occasion and traveled around Europe and Asia on an expense account. I’ve walked into a burning building with firefighters (albeit on a training exercise) — sat in the co-pilot’s seat of a C-130 on a training flight, and stood on the bridge of Coast Guard ice breaker – as it broke ice.
On the other hand, I’ve sat through interminably boring and seemingly endless city council and planning commission meetings, not to mention corporate marketing presentations. I’ve written my share of weather stories, too.
An alternative weekly in a college town, a small-town daily in the frozen tundra of Northern Michigan, a small string of local papers in rural Northern Arizona, and Silicon Valley business trades – I’ve written for all of these.
I joined one of those high-tech trade pubs when the dotcom bubble came along. I was making more money than I thought I ever could or would in journalism, and living in the epicenter of Silicon Valley. The bubble burst; I got laid off as my employer folded its print operations – only to be rehired by the same company to work as a Web editor for the same publication’s Website and daily email newsletter. I haven’t looked back since.
I shot most of my own photos for all of the newspapers I worked for. But then this came natural; I’ve been a hobbyist since high school – even had the prototypical basement darkroom.
Old-school: wax, physical page mockups, and so-forth; and new school, on the computer screen – Aldous Pagemaker to Adobe InDesign; picas or pixels – I’ve used both. Perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of page design theory and practice translates to website design, I’ve found.
This is not really much of a stretch for a journalist, really. Observation, editorial writing, and navel gazing go hand in hand.
Aside from these three things, I would also add business travel and telecommuting – both are learned skills, believe me. Then there is all of the associated technological baggage that goes with being a 21st-century member of the Fourth Estate; how many journalists can say they’ve filed copy using a cellular modem while on the overnight train from Beijing to Shengyang?
I knew by my junior in high school that I wanted to go into journalism. Even though I had a better-than-average academic record, I also knew that neither Columbia’s or Stanford’s journalism schools were in my future (my academic record was good but not that good). Fortunately, one of the better j schools in the country resided in my home state of Ohio, at Athens: good ole’ Ohio University and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
This is where I received a bachelor of science degree in magazine journalism, a minor in English literature, and learned to eat deadline pressure for breakfast and like it. I got a “B” in News Writing 101; I never worked harder for a grade, and to be honest no job I’ve ever had in journalism was more difficult in terms of day-to-day demands and pressures.
A Well-Rounded Individual
While it’s true that every journalist sets out to change the world, I’ve never really been the crusading do-gooder type. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to do some good things via journalism – exposed a bit of corruption and misappropriation of public funds, tried to keep those CEOs and assorted lawyers honest, etc. I also occasionally do my part outside the Fourth Estate.
In 2004 I raised nearly $5,000 participating in AIDS/Lifecycle, an annual 580-mile, 7-day, supported bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles that benefits aids charities based in those cities. This was a life-changing and a learning experience for me in a number of ways, not the least of which was learning just how difficult it is to raise significant money for a charitable cause – and just how narrow-minded and bigoted some people – and corporations – can be.
I also became a bike nerd – it’s a small jump from building your own computer and obsessing about its performance to obsessing about your bike’s performance – and your VO2 max, your power output in watts, etc. Once a nerd always a nerd, even when you’re buff enough to wear bike shorts in public.
More recently I spent a month volunteering at Isara, a non-profit learning center which provides free English classes and a computer lab to children and adults in Nong Khai, a small, rural town in Northern Thailand. I spent my time there doing a bit of everything – teaching, landscaping, and tending to old, sickly, laggard computers.
Like many journalists, I’ve supplemented my meager income over the years with various endeavors, and even left the field altogether for a time in my youth. Truth be told, I made more money tending bar than I ever did at a newspaper outside of the business trade press – and had a lot of fun. And before you ask, yes, I could flip bottles.
Then there was my whitewater rafting adventure. I’ve always enjoyed playing outdoors, so it seemed only natural to train to be a whitewater rafting guide – I envisioned guiding on the weekends and being a journalist during the week. I managed to complete a somewhat rigorous training program with Rivermen in West Virginia, and even got my wilderness first responder certification along the way.
But I think my whitewater skills were mediocre at best, even though I managed to top-out – and my people skills with customers even less so. At the end of the day, being a raft guide is akin to being a tour guide, shepherding people down a river most of whom have no business being on. That wasn’t for me. I didn’t have the mindset for that, and it showed – nor did I have the personality that fit in with the guide clique (that’s not a dig, either – one of my oldest and dearest friends is a raft guide, after all).
But the training program was an awesome experience and a hell of a lot of fun.
I could say the same about all of 2010, which I spent in Southeast Asia experimenting with a teaching career. In January of that year I got my CELTA certification in Viet Nam; a few months later I headed off to Thailand to teach at a public school. Later I came back to Viet Nam to try teaching at a private language school. Neither situation was for me, but fortunately my experience with ILA redeemed teaching, in my eyes. And like my whitewater rafting adventure, it was an incredible experience – by turns frustrating, depressing, fun and exciting, one that I would not exchange for anything.
“Journalism will kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it.” – Horace Greeley