Words of Advice from Kai Wright

I wrote this blog post last year, April 30, 2010.  But I feel the need to remember what Kai Wright said and that's why I'm posting it, finally.

TODAY Nation fellow Kai Wright dropped by the office. Given, he was required to as he was giving us a seminar. For the next hour and a half he "laid some knowledge" on us. Wright entered the industry by accident, he said. After a drop out of academia--almost going to be an Arabic scholar--he headed to DC and began working for Newshour. He moved into Foreign Policy, and then moved to more community press. His most recent article "Counting on the Census" reports on if the Census 2010 will reflect the changing face of America. Of all the seminars we've had so far, I think this was some of the most honest and helpful information. Given, we mostly talked about career topics so it was a bit biased. 

First, there is an "anxiety of the ability to be a journalist" going on. Understood. But there are some ways to fund your life. 

Here are some memorable quotes/notes.

  • Get out of the pitching business. Develop relationships with your editor. Get the point of developing stories in tandem with your editor. 
  • Fellowships are nice.
  • "Thinking about what is a journalist and how does that fit in the real world is a really useful thing." Ergo, think beyond what your role as a journalist is—use your skills so you're not just working a journalist job.
  • The best interviews (as usual) are simple conversations. Don't interview, talk.
  • Source depot: Service providers i.e. community centers. Many people are there and especially for a policy story, etc., those people will be affected by changes; those people will know people affected by changes. 
  • At the beginning of your word document type: "The point" and then colon. There should be a point, a focus. Check your narrative along the way and keep revising "the point."
  • There is a difference between involving yourself in the story and being personally informed about a story. Make the judgment call. 

Finally, something that really was what this was all about... 

There are no answers right now to how you're going to become a journalist, but your generation is going to be making up those answers along the way. We will be deciding what journalism will become. 

There was some other knowledge today too–pitching, finding stories, etc. But I am most excited that someone finally acknowledged that even though we want to be journalists, we shouldn't be castigated. It's just going to take some time to find what will happen. Journalism is not dead.