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Seasoned journalists offer words of wisdom

By Billy O'Keefe

JON OFFREDO / The Working Press
The first five years are always the toughest.
It’s the time to figure out whether or not journalism is the right career or whether it’s time to move on.
But with newspapers making cuts and the media industry changing, jobs are becoming harder to find and the time to figure it out is dwindling.
The SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference presented a panel discussion Thursday afternoon — “The First Five Years: You Can Do It.”
Before the presentation, The Working Press asked five seasoned journalists to offer their best advice to younger counterparts.
“Go where other people are not. … Don’t look in the obvious places.”
— Travis E. Poling, Business Writer, San Antonio Express-News
“It’s something you have to really love to do. It’s a lifestyle not a career. Just go out there and do it. Never say you can’t do it. If somebody says, ‘can you write this story or can you do this or can you interview or go here,’ always say yes.”
— Jeanne Harnois, National Writers Union
“Make as many connections as you can. I think that’s the most important thing because you never know what connection is going to turn into an opportunity.”
— Jeremy Steele, Business Reporter, Lansing State Journal, SPJ Region IV director
“Be persistent. Do the legwork, follow up and go for the places you want to work, and meet people and have informational lunches.”
— Pueng Vongs, Life and Style Producer, mercurynews.com
“Be flexible. I thought I would start out on a daily newspaper and things changed. I ended up working at a religious publishing company and went on from there. You can plan a path. … You have to be willing to go to different places.”
— Stephenie Overman, Freelance writer