But you already knew this …

From Editor & Publisher


Business of News: What Are Your Qualifications?
posted: 11/25/2015

by: Tim Gallagher

The job coach reviewed my resume on his desk, used his thumb and forefinger like pincers and picked up the sheet.

“We can work with this,” he said.

I was leaving the newspaper business. This guy was supposed to help me. And he was treating my resume—my career—like a dirty diaper.

He read my face. “This is what you were,” he said. “We are going to talk about who you are. What your skills are. Not the jobs you’ve had.”

And for the first time in nearly 30 years I began to think that there were jobs out there that did not start with journalism.

My job coach was the first person who looked at my skills, not at job titles.

This column and this magazine is about the newspaper industry, but it’s instructive for your future—whether it is in the industry or out—to look at the extraordinary set of skills that newspaper people possess. Believe me, these are not in the skill set of many people outside the industry.

Unfortunately, I’ve had this conversation dozens of times in the past decade with newspaper people looking for a new career.

Like many who left, I chose to start a consultancy that turned into a small business. Others found new jobs. In either case, these skills—rather this combination of skills—learned in the newspaper business proved lucrative in new careers.

Rapidly synthesize complicated information. Journalists take it for granted that they can take notes during a four-hour meeting and then compose 800 words that capture the essential actions. This is an exceptional skill.

Make a deadline. In all the disciplines across the newspaper industry, deadlines are sacrosanct and daily. But talk to people in many other industries and they find deadlines, well, deadly. They are blown off or pushed back. The fact that you can make a deadline each day makes you valuable.

Compose coherent sentences. Even write some that sing. In the newsroom, we get used to a minimum level of composition competency. Step outside the business for a few weeks and you will appreciate those who can take subject-verb-object and write it clearly, and often with panache. This ability is not to be taken for granted.

Ask questions. Sometimes in my new job I am interviewed by a journalist who just won’t run out of questions. That’s great. A natural curiosity makes one smarter.

Great facial architecture. The best journalists remember that the head has two eyes, two ears and one mouth. According to that ratio, one should listen and observe four times as often as one speaks. This is crucial in another career you are just learning.

The ability to reserve judgment. Newspaper people learn to wait and listen with disinterest. The best never take a side. They explore points of view and ask for facts. But they never choose a side. No matter what field you might enter, the ability to stay neutral (until there is time to take a position) is important to building the strongest position. Aristotle advised us to know the other side as well as we know our own position.

Manage multiple projects. The best people in our business keep several balls moving at once. They can drop one to work another. This isn’t prevalent in everyone’s skill set.

Motivate. If you’ve been a manager in the business for the past decade and managed to keep your team focused on moving ahead in spite of the challenges, then you are exceptional. You’re a great motivator and other industries need that skill.

Creatively problem solve. Some of my newspaper colleagues once put out a newspaper after an earthquake that knocked out power by powering laptops with a car’s battery. Enough said. We know how to work under difficult circumstances.

Know the ins and outs of a community and who makes it run. We take for granted our knowledge of civics and which level of government or which business leaders make our communities work. If you move outside the newspaper industry, that intimate knowledge will make you exceptional.

Like many former journalists, I built a new career after thinking I would be a journalist forever. I hope those reading this do stay in a business that gets healthier than it has been. But if you don’t, take comfort in knowing that your skills are unique and extraordinary and can help you make a living.
Tim Gallagher is president of The 20/20 Network, a public relations and strategic communications firm. He is a former Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and publisher at The Albuquerque Tribune and the Ventura County Star newspapers. Continue reading “But you already knew this …”

Distinction, take one

Here’s a link to my first contribution to Distinction magazine, a really well-done local publication of which I’m proud to be a small part. There will be more contributions, which pleases me no end.

This first one is about Kent Bazemore, who was undrafted — and unfortunately tainted at the end of his Old Dominion career —  but who has made himself an NBA life despite it all.

Hope you enjoy it.  Kent-Bazemore-1


Fair winds

I don’t know Jeff Bradley, although I feel as though he is me in many ways.

His excellent blog post the other day about being an out-of-work sports writer, which I include here because it’s poignant and relatable, is too common a story these days.

I just had numerous friends survive the media-company slashes in Philadelphia. I am happy for them, obviously, especially if sports writing remains what they truly want to be doing, if it is still the best thing for them and their families.

A year and a couple weeks ago, my detour met me straight up. There is a lot of angst that comes with such a parting and recalibrating, and Jeff, a much bigger-time sports writer than I ever was, gets at the heart of it well in his piece. He doesn’t write asking for sympathy, as some jerkwood blog commenter offered up from his snake pit. He just writes with honesty, same as I do here . . . and every day in the different word-jockey position I now hold.

I don’t know Jeff, but I wished him good fortune, as you do for fellow travelers. Too many of them on the road.




Happy Hokie Trails


I don’t really know Frank Beamer well. I was around him a handful of times a year for a decade or more as a sports columnist. I didn’t sense a lot of spin in the guy. I thought he pretty much told it like it was, except for some schedule-padding and news-manipulating stuff back in the day when he was trying to make Virginia Tech matter. Which he did.

I sat next to him once at a banquet. We chatted and laughed a bit. He is a good fella.

The career eulogies bursting forth upon the recent announcement of his retirement as Virginia Tech’s football coach are earnest and true. Beamer was hardly glib. He was hard-boiled Fancy Gap. But he got it. He has class. Self-control. He was as professional as they come in college football in representing his school and his team on the field and in the media room.

A gentleman. Yep, he is a gentleman.

Of course it won’t be the same to see a Virginia Tech football game without Beamer on the sideline. We’ll get used to it. So will he. Sooner than he suspects, he might even enjoy being out of the snake-pit cauldron of constant recruiting, social media, message boards and instant judgments.

I hope it happens that way for him. He deserves it. He made Virginia Tech football into a thing of consistency, respect and resiliency, even if that national championship the Hokies hungered for proved too large a dream.

Tech’s stadium, and the field inside it, are already named in honor of others. But Beamer-Lane Stadium isn’t too awkward, is it? In the big picture, it doesn’t really matter. Virginia Tech knows the impact Beamer had on its national profile, its enrollment, its fund-raising, and Beamer knows, too, what he meant to his alma mater.

For both, that is a monument in itself.

Happy trails to Frank Beamer.


(Photo, Roanoke Times)