Thursday, November 29, 2007

Getting fired for fun and profit

I got up early this morning to go speak with Ms. McKinney's journalism class at West Seattle High School. I know it was early because I got back home before Michelle left for work.

"What did you tell them," she asked.

Well, hmm, I guess I didn't have a big speech, but we talked a bit about journalism jobs and I tried to make my sales pitch for pursuing one. I started by telling my story about getting fired from my own high school paper, The Orange R, and how that was the best thing that ever happened to my career. They seemed to like that. I also retold my favorite story about being second choice in my own family for a Seattle Times suburban reporting gig, and they seemed to like that too.

They were all remarkably awake and attentive for high school students and for 8:15 a.m. It wasn't the disaster it might have been.

I contacted Ms. McKinney and volunteered my services a couple weeks ago after having coffee with my friend and old reporting partner, Jim Simon, who is teaching a political reporting class at the University of Washington, and after receiving the military vs. journalism questions from Mom's high school neighbor. I felt like I could help in some way; it might be useful to students to hear from a "real" -- though now semi-retired -- journalist. I remember being inspired in high school just by hearing that David Hume Kennerly, then the White House photographer and a Pulitzer Prize winner, was a graduate of Roseburg High and our paper.

The class today asked some good questions. What's the hardest thing about being a reporter, one girl asked. I told her it was getting things right. Another asked, inevitably, about how much money reporters make. Not much, I answered, and gave some rough approximations, to which Ms. McKinney commented, "Better than teachers." True. And not as hard, and better hours, although I didn't say either of those things.

Somebody wanted to know what was the biggest story I'd ever worked on, and someone else asked what was the farthest I'd traveled for a story. Those made me realize I don't have any brilliant Kennerly-esque or Nicolosi-esque tales to tell, but maybe that's OK too. The truth is that most reporting for most reporters isn't glamorous or exciting, but it is interesting and fun and important, and I hope they took that away.


Janice said...

That's sounds like a great thing to do. Rewarding for you and for them.

Rita said...

I thought I popped all my buttons long ago.

Good job, Mark. Be proud.

kateco said...

Very cool

Donna said...

lucky kids... I wish you'd come talk to my journalism class, too! I have some live wires this semester and they'd love you.