To judge from the different paths that my fellow ex-Posties have taken, the newspaper is the equivalent of a liberal-arts college without a strong career center: There’s no one obvious next step, so people get to make up their own.
Some have moved on to news services, Web-only news organizations, TV networks, magazines or other non-newspaper outlets; several research and write about the issues they covered for think tanks or universities; a few have written books; a few have become spokespeople for politicians or do public relations for companies or PR agencies; and one or two have struck out on their own. Not that many have signed up with other papers.
What’s next for me? I don’t entirely know. But since I’ve been getting that question so often–and because, who knows, a potential employer or client might see this–I thought I’d set down what I would like in my next line of work.
- It has to involve writing. Even on crummy days at the Post, playing with the English language could cause a smile to break out on my scowling face. Why else have I been doing so much writing–for free–on Twitter and Facebook? Why, even though my wife and I e-mail each other about once every workday, do I still try to come up with new subject lines when I write her? Writing is what I do.
- It has to involve learning. At its best, journalism brings back the rewarding parts of college–you discover new things that get the gears turning in your head–but doesn’t require you to write about them in academese or pay for the privilege.
- It should be related to technology. I’ve spent a long time immersed in this field, still find it deeply fascinating and want to see what the companies, organizations and people I’ve grown to know will do next. In other words: Don’t tell me I’ve sat through dozens of Windows installations for nothing!
- It should be in the D.C. area. I’ve now spent more than half of my life here; while the city’s knocked me down a few times, it’s picked me up far more often. It would take an exceptional opportunity to pry me away.
- It doesn’t have to involve a newspaper. If anything, the prospect of a job that isn’t saturated with angst over the paper’s mission, transition to the Web or adaption of traditional journalistic standards to social media would be a relief. My next job might not have to involve a newsroom as such either: Some analysts and tech-policy types I know blog more often than Post writers.
- I wouldn’t mind the option of working from home, at least during prime front-porch season. That makes freelancing an option as well. (It helps that my wife’s health-care options aren’t bad, and that we have the prospect from 2014 on of not getting shafted by insurance companies should we shop on our own.)
- Please, oh please, no more crummy software. Thanks, but I’ve spent enough time as collateral damage of a news organization’s abusive relationship with groupware and content-management-system vendors.
I suppose that doesn’t narrow things down all that much. But if you have any suggestions for places I should seek out, or ones I should avoid, I welcome them in the comments.