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From AFN to the Anchor Desk: Reflecting on a Life of Service

By News

By Bob Young
I was going through some photos the other day and found one from fifty years ago. A young Airman was seated behind a desk on a television studio set in the Republic of Vietnam announcing that two Americans were walking on the moon. We didn’t have live pictures available at the time, so some creative visuals were used to cover the live radio network broadcast. Our ingenuity made it work!

My twenty-six months with the American Forces Vietnam Network was my early education in television broadcasting. I started at the bottom, where the real learning begins, especially that lesson in understanding the human dynamics – the culture – of an organization. My introduction to military broadcasting had begun as a junior Airman working for a hard-core Marine Non-Commissioned Officer who reported to an Army Colonel; lots of cultural dynamics at work there!

It was at AFVN that I picked up the skills that enabled me to enjoy a civilian broadcast career that spanned twenty-six years. The detachment where I was first assigned was a small collection of men of varying backgrounds, who operated a television station out of a trailer – a TV station in a box! The beauty was that we all learned how to do each other’s jobs, both behind and in front of the camera.

The time you spend as a military journalist is an investment that easily translates into the civilian world. The knowledge you acquire, the practical skills you hone, the leadership you demonstrate are collectively invaluable assets in an industry crying out for talented and disciplined people who are personally and professionally prepared and eager to get to work.

No employer would pass on someone like a military journalist who has demonstrated time and again the initiative to creatively meet any challenge. I’m reminded of that spirit by a business friend of mine who would tell his customers: “The answer is ‘yes.’ Now, what is the question?”

There came a time in my civilian career when I actually was tasked with hiring people. From my own experience, I knew that veterans were my best recruits. They came prepared in attitude, desire, dependability and experience.

Even this late in my life I fondly recall my time as a military broadcaster, and for those years I remain grateful to the American taxpayer.

10 Killer Tips: How to Pitch a Magazine

By News, Resources

By David Bruce

I already know you have an amazing idea for a story, this post will help you get into the publications you have been dreaming of writing for. When pitching, brevity and accuracy are key.

Crafting an effective pitch is relatively easy. Even if the editor is not interested in your idea, with a good pitch, they may reply with, “No thanks, but what else do you have?” That happens.

After a bit of trial and error, below are a list of the ten best practices that helped me go from lost in an inbox to getting responses from editors and getting published in my favorite magazines.

1. Find the right outlet for your niche. Make sure the magazine or blog is a good fit. Check out past issues and make sure the magazine hasn’t published anything too similar to what you are proposing. Try to approach them with something that’s in their wheelhouse, but come from a different angle so your piece is different.

2. Find the right person. Find the editor that works in the section of the magazine that you are pitching. Many times, magazines break down their sections and have an editor that covers that specific section.

3. Send your pitch by email. People do not want to be pitched via social media, so using the editors working email inbox rather than LinkedIn just makes sense.

4. Hook em high. As in high up in the subject line. Grab their attention with a subject line like, “Query | Lines at the registry are longer than they have ever been. Here’s how to avoid the lines.”A recent survey found that 47% of email recipients open emails based on subject lines. Now, this was a random sampling – picture an editor receiving random email pitches all day. You have to come at them with something that makes them want to read the next sentence, then the next sentence.

5. Address the pitch to the editor by name. Start with “Dear (Name)” or “Hi (Name)”. Refrain from using “Dear Sir or Ma’am.” It reeks of a generic pitch that has been shot-gunned out to several sites, and that’s not the look we’re going for.

6. The shameless art of name-dropping. While name-dropping for some type of social credibility is shameful, in pitching it is somehow… well, less cringe-worthy, and sometimes necessary. If you have a mutual acquaintance and they know the editor to pitch it to, by all means, use the name.

7. Keep your pitch short and sweet. Editors are busy people. They just want to know if the story will work for them and they want to know that you can pull it off. The pitch style that I have had the most success with is actually only one half-page long.

8. Embed links to your work in the email. Do not put attachments in the email. If you’re just starting out, a WordPress blog is a great place to post and share your work.

9. Timeliness. Knowing that your pitch may land in a proverbial black-hole, never to be heard from again, it’s okay to put an expiration on your pitch. Many stories are time sensitive and lose relevancy as time goes on. For this reason, I typically, kindly inform editors, that, I will continue pitching this story after a week or so.

10. Photos. A picture speaks a thousand words, so why not take advantage? If you have a good one that applies to the story your writing, include it. Also let the editor know if you will be supplying pictures with your story.

Now, having a well written pitch is necessary and very helpful for a writer, but it can’t compensate for a mediocre story idea. Run your ideas by trusted friends, and see what type of twists and turns your story takes. Use those twists and turns in your story because that’s the natural progression of the conversation and it will contain questions that your audience will likely have and make for a great piece.

Good Luck!

P.S. Here is a basic pitch template that I like to use:

Pitch Template

Hello [Editor’s Name],

My name is XXX, and I am a Boston-based freelance writer specializing in [Niche].

My work has been published by [links to relevant outlet], and [link to relevant outlet].

I am passionate about [subject], I would love to use my expertise and insights to write a piece for [this brand or publication]. I have included a story idea below that I think will really resonate with your readers:

[Story Headline]

[One or two sentences outlining the piece]

I’d love to get your thoughts–is this something you’d be interested in having me write for [brand or publication]?

Thank you so much for your consideration, [Editor Name]. I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon!

Best,

[Name]


David is a freelance writer from the North Shore of Massachusetts and a former 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper/medic. David recently graduated from UMass Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and is currently in a mentorship program with the Military Veterans in Journalism Program.

The team from Montclair State University accepted a student Edward R. Murrow award for "Montclair News Lab: Hurricane Recovery in Puerto Rico." Photo credit: David Nicholas Photography

Celebrating Excellence in Journalism

By News

For the past 48 years, the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) has recognized important contributions in broadcast and digital journalism. Amongst this year’s student Edward R. Murrow award recipients were my team and I for “Montclair News Lab: Hurricane Recovery In Puerto Rico” in the Excellence in Video Reporting category.

In March 2018, I joined a team of student and faculty journalists to document aid and recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria struck the island. Within a week’s time, our team explored areas that were impacted including education, tourism, businesses, destruction of homes, food distribution, and agriculture. We also formed friendships, overcame challenges, and created memories that will last a lifetime along the way- all while understanding the purpose and power behind journalism.

To have earned a Murrow award in the same room full of talented journalists, who have worked in the industry for years from various news organizations, was truly an honor. As I reunited with peers and faculty from my alma matter, I embraced this moment of recognition. I reflected on how valuable this trip was for our professional growth and development as the next generation of storytellers.

10/14/2019 NEW YORK, NY: The team from Montclair News Lab: Hurricane Recovery in Puerto Rico spoke to CBS National Lead Correspondent David Begnaud at the 2019 Edward R. Murrow Awards Gala. Photo Credit: Laura Galarza

MVJ Social Media Coordinator and Marine Corps veteran Babee Garcia poses with her team’s Edward R. Murrow award at Gotham Hall for their team project “Montclair News Lab: Hurricane Recovery in Puerto Rico.” Photo credit: Alfredo Garcia Rodriguez

It was a great opportunity to not only celebrate our achievements, but to network amongst other media professionals. CBS National Lead Correspondent David Begnaud took some time to congratulate my team. He also gave us great advice on continuing to spread awareness with our storytelling efforts, “Make sure you are promoting it [your work] as much as you can cause that’s how we serve a purpose.”

As a fan of David’s reporting in Puerto Rico, it was personally one of the best highlights of the night. It seemed as if our encounter had come full-circle since we had all told important stories from the island. As we walked on to accept our award, I acknowledged David was clapping and cheering for us backstage. Later that evening, we had also met Senator Bill Bradley, CBS News President Susan Zirinsky, and many others.

I felt proud that our work has been highly recognized by the Television Academy Foundation in California and RTDNA this year. However, our greatest reward throughout our journey had been having our stories being visible, shared and heard.

Our expectations in Puerto Rico were simple- to share stories with the intent to understand and capture the destruction of Hurricane Maria. It took a village, including the extraordinary leadership of our professors, to shape us into the skilled journalists we are today.

This entire experience has made me appreciate the value of journalism across all levels. Whether it is contributing to college journalism or a news organization with a large market, our voices matter. We, as journalists, work hard to highlight injustice and people serving their communities in hopes of getting others to listen.

If we are exercising the ethics, putting in the time, and sharing content, then we are all winners. With and without the awards, we continue to make a difference in bringing local and national attention on stories that need an active voice.

I am humbled by all of the amazing people I met and who have encouraged me thus far. After transitioning from the Marine Corps in 2016, I received the best college education from Montclair State University. Working with the students and faculty convinced me to seize every opportunity I could to be a versatile journalist, including traveling to Puerto Rico. I would like to thank everyone there, who helped foster my creativity and fuel my passion in journalism.

I would also like to thank Military Veterans in Journalism, a non-profit organization that serves others through impactful storytelling, for their continuous support. I am grateful to be a part of their team as Social Media Coordinator.

10/14/2019 NEW YORK, NY: From left to Right: Mariano Arocho, Krystal Acosta, Genesis Obando, Madj Traore, Laura Galarza, Babee Garcia, David Sanders, Kathleen Reddington, and Steve McCarthy at the 2019 Edward R. Murrow Awards Gala in Gotham Hall. (Not pictured: Thomas E. Franklin, Natalie De La Rosa, and Madison Glassman) Photo credit: Alfredo Garcia Rodriguez

Journalism portfolio website

How to build a journalism portfolio website

By News

By Zack Baddorf, Executive Director/Founder

Every journalist needs a portfolio website. The news business is fickle, and it’s normal for reporters to shift from one outlet to the other over the years.

Another outlet might poach you. You might be laid off due to budget cuts. The bosses might decide that video production is the future and then change their minds. Your outlet might just be totally shuttered. Or you just might have had enough of a terrible boss.

Unless you happen to be independently wealthy, you need to be prepared for the eventuality that you’ll be on the job market a few times during your career.

One vital asset you’ll need is a journalism portfolio website, especially if you’re just getting your start in journalism.

You may not be a coder or good at graphic design but there are plenty of options for low cost or free ways that are not super complicated.

Step 1: Buy a domain.

A website domain, like mywebsite.com, is where your portfolio website lives. Think of it like a street address. Usually, for your portfolio site, you just want to buy a website domain that is your name. If you have a common name, you may need to buy something like John-Doe.com or JohnDoeJournalist.com . These cost about $10 per year.

I recommend buying your domain at Namesilo which has two factor authentication to make sure you aren’t (easily) hacked.

Step 2: Choose a website host.

A website host has a server out there in computer land where your website content actually lives. It’s like the house being built up on the street address.

Now, some hosts are more complicated than others and some are more simple. Prices also vary.

If you are not tech savvy at all, consider using a site like Squarespace that charges $12 per month for a nicely designed site that is easy to build. Wix is great too and more affordable, but it isn’t as fancy.

If you have more tech skills and more time on your hands, you can design your own website using a content management system like WordPress. I always go to ThemeForest and search for WordPress themes that I then customize. Themes are frameworks that you can use for your site. There are lots of options there that are affordable and beautiful. You’ll also find many themes specifically intended to be portfolios.

If you go the WordPress route, you’ll need to pay a web hosting service to put the WordPress files on your domain. I recommend DreamHost which is reliable, secure and affordable (for as low as $2.59/per month, as of June 2019).

I prefer building my own site on WordPress because:

  • you get to customize everything exactly as you want it
  • you can choose from a much wider variety of themes
  • and there are a lot more things you can do technically.

If you pay for Adobe Creative Cloud programs, then consider using Adobe Portfolio to create your site. This program allows you to select a theme, customize photo galleries that you can upload/edit from Adobe Lightroom, and personalize your URL. If you use all the Adobe Creative apps like Photoshop, Portfolio and Premiere, it’s $52.99/ month. However, if you want to only invest in Portfolio, it is $9.99/month.

Step 3: Building your portfolio website

With the tech stuff out of the way, you actually need to put good and useful content on your portfolio website. At the minimum, you should include:

  • Your bio
  • A full (downloadable) résumé in PDF format
  • A selection of your best clips
  • Your reel (if you do video work)
  • Your contact info (including PGP key if you’re into that sort of thing)
  • Links to your social media pages (not profiles)

For those of you who do journalism work in a range of mediums, you may need to separate out video, radio, photo and print stories into different sections. I suggest a maximum of 10 stories for each medium.

Ultimately, this website should be how you want to present yourself to the world. Carefully craft the wording and make sure it captures where you are now as a journalist while also being forward-thinking about how you want to position yourself in your career.

A few tips before you go live

Get other people to check out your website before you go live. You may be a strong editor but it’s always good to get a second or third look. If you’re an MVJ member, your mentor can go through your website with you. (If you’re not yet a member, apply now.)

Your website should be a constant work in progress. Add in your latest and greatest clips, especially if you’re proud of them. Update your bio and resume whenever you’ve achieved something new, like winning an award or publishing at a new outlet.

Some folks like to have a blog on their website. I’ve done that in the past and ultimately deleted mine. Unless you’re posting regularly, say once every week or so, it’s going to look dated. Typically, when you have real stories that pay the bills with real deadlines, a blog on your portfolio website is going to end up on the bottom of your to-do list.

Whether you like it or not, as a journalist, you have to market yourself. You are a brand. Spend the time to do your website right. Your career thanks you.

Zack Baddorf is the executive director of Military Veterans in Journalism. He’s an award-winning journalist and filmmaker with reporting experience in more than 40 countries. His work has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, AP and elsewhere.

Babee Garcia contributed to this post. She is currently the Social Media Coordinator for Military Veterans in Journalism and is an award-winning multimedia journalist from New Jersey.

How a Special Ops legend made me a better reporter

By News

By Alex Quade, Reporter / Military Veterans in Journalism Board Member

As young journalists bootstrapping our way up the news ranks, our mentors are usually editors or executive producers. If you’re a journalist, what you’re about to read may come as a bit of a shock. My mentor was not in the news business. Far from it, though he made some news in his day. I’ve come to learn, it’s a good thing in our profession, to try to understand people — or groups of people — who despise you. And on the flip side, this may come as a shock to anyone reading this who happens to serve in the secretive world of Special Operations; a community with no great love for reporters, especially after the “Tailwind” story on CNN in the 1990s which eventually was rescinded. But I hope they will read the following; even though it’s from a purported “tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, liberal-media-puke.”

As a lone, woman war reporter covering U.S. Special Operations forces on combat missions downrange, an unexpected mentor came into my life. This unlikeliest of sources hated reporters. Despite that, he “chose” me, treated me as an adopted SON, and taught me everything I need to know that matters.

Love him or hate him, everyone respected Medal of Honor recipient Col. Robert L. Howard (or “Mean ol’ Ranger Bob” as I liked to call him) for his bravery during five tours in Vietnam, mainly with the Studies and Observations Group.  He was one of the most decorated soldiers in U.S. history; nominated for the Medal of Honor three times.

Bob said many people in that community deserve medals for all the unheralded things they’ve done, which, due to their classified nature, lack of witnesses, nor write-ups, few Americans will ever know about.  He said he wore his Medal of Honor for each of them.

When I was with him, and his family, during his last weeks in hospital in Texas in 2009, he asked me to share a last “tasker” for each man or woman serving in Special Operations: “Continue the Mission.”

And he tasked me, too: “You must be tough as woodpecker lips,” Bob told me.  “You must do the thing you cannot do.  Whatever your fate may be… you make it happen along the way.”

He emailed advice almost every day, especially when I was downrange, as an embedded war reporter, covering “his” Green Berets on combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He was excited I was to spend time with “his” Rangers, too.  He encouraged me to make a difference through the war stories I do and said he admired my perseverance.

“Bob, I’m not a cheerleader for the military,” I said.

“Alex, truth in reporting is a virtue; without unnecessary exploitation of facts.  It’s about trust and honest sincerity. Military dependents resent the absence of their loved one and will turn to you for the rest of the story,” Bob replied.  Which is why he hassled me every day I was back stateside.

“Lady, are you up exercising your talents?” He’d email early in the morning. If I didn’t hit “send” to reply quick enough, it was, “Get your butt out and ruck-march!” You see, Bob expected me to follow his strict regimen:  Adding weight in a rucksack while picking up speed and increasing distance.  As a septuagenarian, he still got up at 4:30 every morning to do physical training. He could still walk 25 miles and carry a ruck, and he was not shy about saying, he had “No patience for fat people, women, or hurt feelings.”

“You must carry your own load at squad or fire team level,” he said. “But I’m scaring the socialites and their little dogs in Central Park,” I countered.  Bob didn’t care. His orders were clear:  “Don’t hold back the men downrange!”

He said he felt like he was “sending me off to face evil” every time I deployed. He told me to carry a copy of the Koran, adding, “Learn some basic Farsi and practice it on the locals.” And, since I have no patience, he admonished:  “Never be quick to take the next step without knowing where it leads you.”

“Seek out the good sergeants; you’ll know who they are. They’ll set you straight,” Bob advised.  “Keep your eyes up and your butt down,” he said. “Stay in the shadows.  Blonde hair makes a good target. If I can see you, I can kill you!”

He reiterated that fact one night in Landstuhl, Germany, before I headed back to Iraq and Afghanistan. One moment he was casually smoking a cigar, the next, he literally had my life in his hands. I’ll call it the “two-fingered, Vulcan death-grip” on the back of my neck, which brought me to my knees in an instant and made Medal of Honor recipients Staff Sergeant Drew Dix (5th Special Forces Group) and Command Sergeant Major Gary Littrell (Ranger Battalion) smile.

“That’s what you need to know how to do,” he said, during his impromptu combative lesson.  But what I got out of that lesson was:  Damn!  He may look old, but never underestimate Bob Howard!


Bob must have known for a long time that he was fighting his last battle with the Grim Reaper.  And like all soldiers, did not want to die alone. “This’ll keep ya motivated!”  He said, shoving a Ziploc baggie at my chest. Inside was a bloody, nasty-looking piece of shrapnel freshly removed from near his frontal lobe just two weeks before. Just what every girl wants, right?

“It’s a real piece of North Vietnamese Army shrapnel fired from a 75-mm recoil-less rifle, that hit to the left front of me while I was firing at the enemy position, from a prone position, about 300 meters away,” Bob explained.  “They rushed to clamp the arteries and veins to keep me from bleeding to death and left the shrapnel in.  Had a headache for 42 years. First few days after removal recently, messed up my equilibrium.”

But the former member of Delta, the Green Berets and Ranger Battalion, who’d braved all the world’s hostile environments, was starting to feel the cold.  So I gave him my “Woobie,” the blanket I’d carried in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Sitting in his hospital room, in the wee hours, he told me, I was the one who looked cold; so he made me wear his beanie, that old, black, Ranger patrol-cap had never been washed in 25 years.  He said, just looking at it on my head, made him feel warm.

Looking for things to appreciate in tough situations is what helped Bob through. “Look for Orion’s Belt.  It is one of the most beautiful sights.  I’ve lain in place, concealed, looking up at it many times while in Vietnam through sporadic jungle canopy,” he quietly mused.

“This is no bullshit!”  Bob turned serious. “I challenge you to stay alert, stay safe, watch your back, and return home to share your stories and experiences with the public that need to be reminded,” he pointed his finger at me.

He asked me to tell all “his men”:  Always “Lead from the front,” because that’s what he did.  And:  “Charlie Mike,” or, “Continue the Mission”.  The last thing Bob said to me was, I “can kiss him in his coffin.”

Despite my belief that Mean ol’ Ranger Bob would take out the Grim Reaper with the pistol strapped to his calf, cancer took what the enemy never could.  Col. Robert L. Howard passed away the day before Christmas Eve, 2009. Every morning since then, I look at my email… half expecting a butt-kicking message from him from the grave. His lessons still sound off like a cadence to my footfalls when I go running:  “Charlie Mike… Continue the Mission… Charlie Mike…”

No, my fellow journalists… I did not drink the Kool-Aid.

Ranger Bob’s intestinal fortitude, which he was intent on passing along to me, before he passed away… his lessons have kept me alive in tough locations.  The lesson I’d like to pass along to YOU is:  Be open to learning from people you’d never expect, especially people who “hate reporters.”

Now, whenever meetings bring me to the “five-sided wind tunnel” on the Potomac (the Pentagon) I go visit Bob.  The birds at Arlington National Cemetery seem to target his headstone.  Bet that pisses him off, I think, touching his shrapnel hanging on a chain around my neck. But then I know, just like Clint Eastwood, he would have squinted-up his eyes, like he always did, laughed and grinned widely.

ALEX QUADE is a war reporter and documentary filmmaker, who’s covered U.S. Special Operations Forces on combat missions since 2007.  She’s the only reporter, male or female, ever embedded long-term with these elite, secretive units downrange on her own, with no crew or support.  The recipient of two national Edward R. Murrow Awards, Quade has produced videos and online reports for The New York Times, a front page story for The Washington Times, and has two documentaries in film festivals:  Horse Soldiers of 9/11, narrated by actor Gary Sinise, and Chinook Down, an investigation into the surface-to-air missile shoot-down of a U.S. helicopter in Afghanistan killing all on board. Quade was supposed to be on that helicopter. She survived to report firsthand on the fierce firefight and recovery efforts. Quade started her career as a White House intern during the Persian Gulf War. She’s worked in television covering global conflicts and hostile environments for CNN, Fox News, HLN, and CNN International out of Frankfurt, Germany and New York. Quade’s reporting from the Asian Tsunami was individually cited in CNN’s Columbia du-Pont Award and her war reports were part of group Peabody and Emmy awards. She attended Georgetown University’s Institute for Political & Ethical Journalism, and holds three degrees from the University of Washington. Quade serves on the Board of Military Reporters and Editors.

 

Military Veterans in Journalism MVJ logo transparent

Join us: We are looking for interns

By News

Want to start on the ground level and work with an organization that is growing fast? Become an intern with Military Veterans in Journalism.

Military Veterans in Journalism is a professional association that builds community for vets, supports their career growth, and advocates for diversifying newsrooms through hiring and promoting more vets.  

We launched on May 2 this year, and we are looking for an intern to support our membership and outreach efforts. Depending on how that goes, we’ll ask for you support in creating partnerships with journalism universities and veteran student groups.

We are looking for people with creativity who have ideas of how to improve the organization. Since we’re new, you’ll have the chance to make a big impact in our community.

We will train you on membership outreach and partnership creation.

We’d like someone to volunteer 10 hours per week but more time would be great, too.

Join our team and work with us as we move forward in our mission. Email us your résumé with a quick note about why you are interested. Let us know if you have any questions.

A LESSON IN HUMILITY: GOING FROM SERGEANT TO INTERN

By Resources

My first civilian job was an internship with a New York production company where I had hoped to become a professional videographer. My first assignment: sweeping up cigarette butts in front of the building. Sure, I was an old pro at field day duties, but hadn’t I paid my dues already? Hadn’t I been a sergeant of Marines just two months prior?

While 22-year-old workers in corporate America are scarcely trusted to work a copy machine, military service members of that age may make decisions that carry the weight of life and death. It can be quite a shock to start working for an organization that doesn’t seem to place any special trust and confidence in your abilities.

The values required for military service, like integrity and accountability, easily translate to journalism. Experience operating in a hierarchy and just plain getting things done can help you quickly ascend to a position with greater influence. But, in journalism, none of that will likely help you start anywhere but at the bottom. I had to learn to suck it up and pay my dues.

But then I ran into a financial problem. I hadn’t considered the numbers very thoughtfully, and I soon realized I simply couldn’t pay my New York rent with a $7 per hour internship. I had to quit that job and lose that opportunity to grow.

If you’re committed to working in journalism despite knowing you may need to take a low-wage, low-influence position, you should spend some time figuring out the finances. This may mean taking advantage of your Post-9/11 GI Bill. The housing allowance that accompanies the Post-9/11 GI Bill is a fantastic way to keep you on your feet while you make your mark in an entry-level job.

If you can only find an unpaid internship, you can also get six months of unemployment benefits when you first get out (which some states extend to a year). This may give you the time to build your credibility at an organization and in the industry so you can move up to a position more suited to your abilities.

None of this means you should stick with a company where you just plain won’t like working. Look around the room. Are there more senior people doing jobs you could see yourself enjoying? Do you have access to them to talk about how to carve your own path? Those questions should help you determine if an internship is right for you.

You might look at an entry-level job as a way to get a glimpse of the opportunities ahead of you. You’re evaluating the company and the industry as much as they are evaluating you. If you find journalism is for you and you land an internship at a place where you want to grow, then suck it up, pay your dues, find some mentors, and climb that ladder.

New journalists: find your specialty

By News

By Zack Baddorf

It can be overwhelming starting in the journalism field. There are countless news outlets (leaning left, right and everywhere in between) filled with an array of positions (editor, assistant producer, videographer, print reporter, etc) reporting on a whole range of subjects (from science to interior design).

Specializing, or building an expertise in a singular coverage subject or technical skill, can help you find direction in your career.

One way to find your specialization is to follow your passion. Like some other military veterans who work in journalism, I’m naturally drawn to stories related to conflict and post-conflict. After finishing my military service, I freelanced around the world for a few years, reporting mostly on stories of humanitarian crisis, development, and conflict from places like Syria, Cambodia and Venezuela.

Even that level of specialty is really too broad. The smarter career move for me would have been to settle down in one of these places for a year or two and really dig in. Only later in my career did I live and work in places like South Sudan, Afghanistan and Central African Republic for about a year each. I became known to editors around the world and it was normal for the BBC to call me up for analysis.

That’s the key: Become an expert. Become someone whose reporting is valued and recognized as trustworthy.

You don’t have to fly off to a war zone to find your speciality. Perhaps you’re really into emerging technology: Go to Silicon Valley and start filing stories about tech startups. . Work on building two types of contacts – insiders who do work in the specialized beat you’re covering, and editors who can publish your stories or hire you to their staffs.  With time, dedication, and solid reporting, you’ll eventually find your place in the industry. You will become known and people will come to you with stories and leads.

Importantly, you should be reading. A lot. Find articles and outlets where you’d want to be published. If you find yourself reading a story and wish you had been the one to write  it, find out how that reporter got to their current gig. Knowing their path makes it easier to find your own. It’s critical, especially as a freelancer, to visualize where you want your work to end up and then doggedly pursue the gatekeepers to get your best work published.

That’s not to say you can’t shift your focus later in your career. It happens all the time. In the beginning, at a local outlet, you might be a generalist covering everything from political dog and pony shows to literal pony shows. Consider applying for fellowships after you’ve established a track record and have a solid portfolio showing you can hammer out strong reporting.

Ultimately, to find your specialty, you need to follow what interests you and dive deep.



Zack Baddorf is the executive director of Military Veterans in Journalism. He’s an award-winning journalist and filmmaker with reporting experience in more than 40 countries. His work has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, AP and elsewhere.

Military Veterans in Journalism officially launches

By News

We’re proud to announce the official launch of Military Veterans in Journalism!

Military Veterans in Journalism is a professional association that creates community for vets, supports their career growth, and advocates for increasing newsroom diversity through hiring more vets.

While there is limited data available on how many military veterans now work as journalists, it’s clear they are underrepresented. Whether they worked as a culinary specialist, an EOD tech, or a public affairs officer, we believe veterans bring a diversity of thought and experience that should be more significantly leveraged by media outlets.

We will address this by talking to leaders in newsrooms and their human resources departments about the value that vets bring to the news industry as a result of their military service.

Further, we know veterans have a tough time breaking into journalism as a career. To address this, our all-volunteer staff will run a mentorship program to support veterans as they progress professionally in the media industry. We will also create community (mostly online but also through in person events) that will give vets a chance to network and support each other.

We invite you to browse around our website to learn more about our programming.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED:

  • If you’re a veteran working in journalism or aspiring to work in journalism, we invite you to become a member.
  • If you’re a journalist (veteran or not) interested in mentoring veterans, we invite you to become a mentor.
  • If you have any ideas, thoughts or want to get involved, feel free to get in touch: [email protected] . We’d love to hear from you.

While we are just getting started, we look forward to supporting our fellow veterans in media.

We will be holding an informally launch celebration with supporters at Alligator Lounge in Brooklyn, New York, at 6:30 p.m. The event is open to the public.

Thanks in advance for your support!

Russell Midori (MVJ’s President) & Zack Baddorf (MVJ’s Executive Director)