My Year of Application

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Greetings to all of my readers, followers, former classmates and friends on this first day of 2014, or as I am branding it "My Year of Application".  As I said at the close of my last blog update of 2013, I declared completion with my Certificate in Journalism program through the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the physical certificate is in the process of being delivered to me sometime in the next five-to-ten school business days.  Over the past 28 months, I've become formally acquainted with the fundamentals of journalism, did some newswriting and reporting, learned about the current online environment, reviewed ethical considerations, practiced some public relations writing, expanded my photojournalism confidence levels and, lastly, dabbled in opinion writing (to supplement my near lifelong following of these subjects).  Throughout that period, I posted some of my coursework submissions here to serve as waypoints to measure my personal progress towards the certificate completion goal. 

With that objective now accomplished, the next logical step is to start applying what I have learned about those subjects in order to, hopefully, break into the journalism business in a manner that I have yet to determine.  2014 can also be considered a "year of transition" for me concerning my primary employment situation.  Right now, I'm waiting to see if our company wins new work that I could be put back on contract and taken off of overhead.  If that falls through, then a new employer and quite possibly a new location would be in my future so this application phase has become a much larger priority than I originally envisioned. 

Instead of creating a brand new website, I am planning to post these new items at this current location.  This decision serves two ends.  First, it gives new readers the opportunity to become familiar with me and witness my progression through the certification program and to my current proficiencies.  Secondly, it allow me to postpone the big decision ahead--in which direction to I want to go?  I did enjoy the "rush" of doing on-scene reporting during the 2012 presidential campaigns and photographer friends of mine tell me that I have a good eye for subject and setting composition in my pictures.  However, through countless campaigns of message board "flame wars", I have refined a powerful persona that is not afraid to share his own opinions on the important topics of the day from the spheres of politics, national security, and journalism/media.  I have shared a few opinionated postings here already and there are many more that I can introduce here in the coming weeks and months.  With these aspirations are not completely similar (I'm not sure if there are very many reporter/ photographer/columnists in this field), my ultimate "branding" decision will have to wait until I eventually make up my mind.

Part of this application initiative will require personal commitment and dedication on my part to actually following through on my plan.  To help me stick to it, I am setting up a posting schedule (at a minimum--could be more frequent depending upon the topic, the subject or my availability):

  • weekly: an opinion column (would be uploaded on Sundays--in an homage to the schedule that Frank Rich had when he wrote for The New York Times' op/ed pages)
  • monthly: a photojournalism submission 
For reporting assignments, I will be at the mercy of my work schedule and getting access to newsworthy issues to cover.  In addition to the federal races for the House of Representatives (no senators this time around), 2014 is also a statewide office election year here in Ohio but that could all change if I have to move to another location.  If I can go back to a second-shift schedule, covering current events would be a lot easier than working while the news is happening.  Credentialing might also pose a problem since I cannot use the student angle anymore but this site--and my new certification--might help mitigate concerns about my background.

I am taking on this initiative not really knowing where it might eventually end up.  Journalism is a field very similar to my current intelligence specialty so I'm not venturing that far away from my long-term "comfort zone".  In the very fickle world of defense contracting work, I've recently found out that individuals can be put out of a job in a very short period of time for the flimsiest of unsubstantiated reasons.  I believe that I have what it takes to succeed in this new profession but the transition is the thing that is spooking me right now.  Due to my educational background and years of experience, my company can request a high compensation rate for my services and I, as their employee, get a sizable portion of that applied to my annual salary.  Knowing what the current financial situation is in today's news/media field, I would be taking a financial step backwards; however, my current shaky employment status might take the gradual move option away from me.  I can only put my best foot forward in my current "limbo" situation, monitor my in-person and social networks, and hope to land squarely on my feet--wherever they may land.

What is giving me confidence in what the future may hold for me as a journalist is the recent success of a former coworker of mine (who will remain anonymous here for professional reasons).  Having a lifelong dream of becoming an author, she (like other dreamers) had to put it on hold and take another job in order to pay the bills and fund our modern society's growing list of necessities.  After relentless encouragement from her husband, she finally started on a book early last year, writing in her spare time and keeping to a demanding production schedule.  After receiving very positive reviews from a publisher about the submitted prologue, she redoubled her efforts throughout the summer to meet their September suspense.  Through social media and office discussions, she shared all of her highs and lows associated with the writing, cover selection/unveiling, and release and I got to personally share in her joy when she handed me a copy in early December with a handwritten inscription thanking me for the support.  Late last month, she completed the second book of that series and it appears that she is well on her way to establishing herself as a novelist.  Perhaps I might be able to make a similar professional crossover in the coming year--stay tuned!

P.S.  After reading what I wrote about my former coworker above, I may actually look into perhaps putting a book together to document my activities over the past 2+ years (although I'm thinking more like Shutterfly than Simon and Schuster).  I'll update you on any progress if/when that happens.

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