Step #1: Start with your newsroom’s corporate culture
This column appeared in the May 1999 issue of The American Journalism Review.
By J.D. Lasica
Web journalists today face a choice: work at the online division of an old media company, like Tampa Bay Online or Time Digital, or dive headlong into a new media company that exists only in cyberspace. More and more, they’re choosing the latter.
Consider Janelle Brown. When she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1995, she knew she wanted to be a journalist, but the traditional route of ladder-climbing at a newsroom didn’t appeal to her. “The idea of working at some really dry or dull newspaper didn’t interest me,” she says. “Old media seemed so hierarchical, while new media seemed so exciting and vibrant and starving for talent.”
She took her first job as an editorial assistant at HotWired, quickly became a low-level editor, moved to Wired News as a reporter, and then joined Salon last year as a technology correspondent. “In old media, I could never have gone from an editorial assistant to a journalist writing nationally recognized stories in the space of three years. Here you have more room to grow as a writer and person.”
Most of her journalist friends have either joined or begun freelancing for Web sites like SonicNet, Suck, Wired or Citysearch. “It’s a chance to get in the door and build up your clips pretty quickly,” she says.
Brown is in the vanguard of a new phenomenon: journalists who forsake old media for new media. Young people, especially, are eager to head straight to a Web content business.