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“There are some people who don’t wait.” Robert Krulwich on the future of journalism | Not Exactly Rocket Science | Discover Magazine

May 12, 2011


Robert Krulwich  (yay!) addresses the Berkeley Journalism School’s Class of 2011. Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science has posted the full text of his speech here: “There are some people who don’t wait.”

I want to talk to you about your tomorrows in journalism….

It is, I know, hard to find a job.

I’m guessing you look at the world of newspapers and magazines and broadcasters and webcasters and Huffposts and Daily Beasts and sometimes the whole bunch of ‘em feel like the City of Troy – you know,  this high walled, Fortress of Journalism, occupied by people who somehow got in before you did and now they’re looking down at you… little you, a newbie standing alone on the beach  and you’re looking up,  thinking: “Hey! How’d you get in there?… and they’re not telling…

Yeah, that is kinda how I feel…

Krulwich explains what journalism was, what it is becoming, how he had the ‘hunger’ to be a journalist. He faked an ID and snuck into a policial convention:

I learned what reporters do by watching them, and then copying what I saw.  I ran up corridors. I interviewed people. I took frantic notes. I’d rush from ballrooms to the convention pressroom and type like crazy, what exactly I don’t remember, cos nobody had sent me there; I was writing nothing to nobody.  It was a pantomime, the whole thing, but I was in heaven. At one point there was a fight in a corridor, while the fight was still going on – and this was Chicago, people really hit each other – I squirreled on my belly underneath the fighting  to get a quote from the first victim, whose name happened to be Maliewsky, or some long Polish name with lots of vowels, not easy to spell but I knew everybody would want to know the right spelling – I’d just learned that – so lying on the floor I say to him, “How do you spell Maliewsky? M, A, L, I or is it E? and with his head pressed to the carpet, he tells me, and I squiggle back out, and ten minutes later I’m standing in the pressroom… once I was sure Strobe Talbot wasn’t there, and I’m spelling Maliewsky and then, generously I’m…. sharing my quote! Oh man.

And he gives advice that I’ve heard from the science writers I’ve talked to:

Suppose, instead of waiting for a job offer from the New Yorker, suppose next month, you go to your living room, sit down, and just do what you love to do. If you write, you write. You write a blog. If you shoot, find a friend, someone you know and like, and the two of you write a script. You make something. No one will pay you. No one will care, No one will notice, except of course you and the people you’re doing it with. But then you publish, you put it on line, which these days is totally doable, and then… you do it again.

Seriously, reading his words, my heart is beating faster. This dream I have might just be possible. It’s going to be hard, but maybe I can do it.

But what I’ve noticed is that people who fall in love with journalism, who stay at it, who stay stubborn, very often win. I don’t know why, but I’ve seen it happen over and over.

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