October 7, 2009 at 1:49 pm Leave a comment

Often when journalists are looking for that “next chapter” in our careers, we’re told that we should consider taking our journalism skills and doing something else with them, especially in this tough job market (which is getting even more crowded — ABC News is the latest to shed jobs, including some in D.C.). But doing that is easier said than done. In coming blog posts, I hope to share some solid advice on how to transition — from those who have done it themselves or are in the business of advising others.

The other day I talked to one such person, Sherry Ettleson, a D.C. executive recruiter who focuses on filling jobs for public interest groups, NGOs and non-profit groups. (Sherry was referred to me by an ex-CQer — gotta love that network!) Sherry made a career switch herself recently and likes talking to journalists, who she thinks have a broader skill set than we realize for getting into other careers. (Sherry, by the way, is happy to get resumes from laid-off journalists to pass along to non-profits, etc.  Email her at settleson@verizon.net.) Here are some of her thoughts:

*Journalists often think they won’t be able to be effective communications representatives for groups — even if they believe in the group and have committed to leaving journalism for “advocacy” — because they’ve never done this job. Her advice, especially when going after such a position, is to make clear your knowledge of the issue(s) and the players — and your ability to get and pass along information. This is what communications directors do, though of course they do it from the other end of the phone line, so to speak, than we are used to being on.

*Journalists are story tellers and have an inherent understanding of how to tell and structure stories — which is what non-profits and other groups need to do, Ettleson says.

*For those who are somewhat entrepreneurial (and perhaps are in a position where they could work part-time or free-lance), Ettleson suggests that after a layoff or buyout, that the journalist take stock in a very specific way. What are the skills I have that others could use? Rather than trying to find a job in a lousy market, is there a way I could leverage these skills into something that others would pay me directly for? The digital age opens up all kinds of possibilities, and Ettleson encourages people to think along these lines before getting too wrapped up in a job search. She also notes you can explore some entrepreneurial ideas even while conducting a more traditional job search.

Some congratulations messages today to a few Facebook (and real-world) friends (and proof that hiring is going on in D.C.)! Nikki Schwab is leaving U.S. News & World Report (where she helped out the terrific Paul Bedard with Washington Whispers) to be a columnist for the “Yeas & Nays” page of The Washington Examiner. (Nikki follows Kiki Ryan, who is now with Politico’s Click.  And she was hired by the Examiner’s editor, Steve Smith, who has had several high-profile jobs both before and since being editor of U.S. News, but has always been a good friend to US News’ers.) And my very own “big” brother, William Schneider, will be leaving Leadership Directories in D.C. after many years there for Eagle Interactive, also in D.C.

Several job opportunities follow — all of them today sent along by CQ’ers or former CQ’ers! (I am not identifying the source of leads generally, though if you’d like a shout-out for your lead, let me know.)

*Spitfire Strategies is assisting in a search for a media manager for a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. Interested candidates should send a resume and cover letter to: freepress@spitfirestrategies.com

*The following is a full-time communications director opening with an NGO in D.C. — AED Global Health, Population & Nutrition. The link provides much more information:


*Though Gannett has had several rounds of layoffs, a Washington bureau correspondent position has opened. Details follow:

To find out more about this job, go to:

Position: Gannett Washington Bureau Correspondent
Company: Gannett Co., Inc.
Location: District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Ad Expires: November 6, 2009
Job ID: 1106228

Job Summary:
Provides analytical, watchdog coverage of the federal government, in addition to breaking news and features, for specific localized Gannett newspaper and TV markets. Provides coverage for use in print and online focusing on the issues and people home state readers care about. Reporter must be a self-starter who knows how to monitor the Hill and find and suggest story ideas. Must plan short- and long-term coverage. Must be able to communicate well with multiple editors both in D.C. and in the field. Multi-tasking and organizational skills are a must.
Writing, reporting and professionalism are expected to be of the highest caliber. Accuracy, fairness and context are paramount. Follows the Gannett code of ethics. Stories should be reported and written in a framework that emphasizes why readers should care with compelling leads and clear nut grafs and structure. Stories should include breakout boxes or Web links.
Reporter should be innovative and embrace new technology. Should be able to use digital cameras and flip videocameras and be able to send photos and video. Reporting includes posting stories for the Web on breaking news, contributing to papers’ blog sites, being available for Webcam interviews for TV.
Reporter must consistently meet Washington bureau deadlines for budget lines and stories. Must turn in profiles, features and lengthy enterprise stories at least one day before they move on the wire so that editors have time to suggest changes and those changes can be made.
Reporters should keep up to date on new reporting technologies and take advantage of professional development opportunities.
Reporters should share tips and information with colleagues and supervisors.

The job includes, but is not limited to:

Washington-based coverage:
Covers congressional delegations. Follows issues hometown papers care about. Explains how proposed legislation or regulations could help or hurt local communities. Watchdog and enterprise stories should be a natural and frequent byproduct of beat coverage.
Monitors his/her beat and what is happening on the Hill by getting on appropriate lists, monitoring key Web sites and blogs, checking trade and other press, and going to and filing from the Hill.
Expected to be proactive on the beat, developing sources and suggesting story ideas.
If a local story is of interest beyond that market, reporter should alert editor and prepare a national version.
Should look for and take advantage of opportunities to work collaboratively and efficiently with bureau colleagues.
Provides Web stories for breaking news, such as major votes, key hearings, court proceedings and other events. Web stories could also include briefs, notebook items or blog items.
Takes photos or video when possible and appropriate. Provides papers/TV stations with contacts or data for them to get their own photos or create graphics to accompany reporter’s story.
Seeks opportunities to use and analyze databases for localized coverage.
Regularly contacts the appropriate liaisons at each paper and TV station, keeps that list updated, and understands the people and issues of importance to those communities. Monitors usage of stories in local papers and on the Web. Discusses the week-ahead coverage plan with his/her Washington editor. Sends that weekly plan to his/her papers and TV stations at the start of every week. Prepares quarterly coverage plans for his/her Washington editor that shows the reporter is planning for scheduled events, has a strategy for collecting information for watchdog and enterprise stories, and timelines for delivering that coverage.

Must have a minimum of 8 years of daily journalism experience.
Preference given to those with experience covering Congress. Please provide examples of experience covering any of the following: Florida politics, the environment, offshore drilling, aging issues, NASA.
This is a full-time position. Some nights and weekends possible.
Salary: Negotiable.

E-mail a cover letter, resume and three to six clips to lrehrmann@gannett.com by Oct. 20.

*Last but certainly not least, I have been contacted by a respected book and information publisher looking for some candidates whose resumes have a mix of editorial, data management and data systems skills, and who enjoy editorial development work. The publisher has several openings in D.C.  If you have these skills and are interested, please be in touch with me and I will connect you with the company.

Happy hunting, and keep the leads coming!



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