A journalist’s transition….

October 12, 2009 at 4:03 pm Leave a comment

Today I bring you the first example of what I  hope will be a regular feature on this blog showcasing journalists who have successfully made the transition to new careers — and their tips for others who might like to do the same. The first featured “transitionee” is Jim Leusner, a long-time, award-winning investigative reporter at The Orlando Sentinel.

Jim started his own private investigation firm in July 2008 after taking a buyout (after 31 years there) from the Sentinel, surprising no one. Jim was the guy in the newsroom — long before the Web made this easy — who you would go to if you needed a hard-to-get fact or needed to find someone and quick. He handled year-and-a-half long investigations and quick hits — investigative reporting was in his blood. Thirteen years ago he obtained a PI license, he says, “as an insurance policy — and a teaching credential.  I knew someday I’d need it and it’s come in handy because I figured the business would change.” So Jim was doing some PI work, some media relations and some free-lance writing, again surprising no one. But only a month or so later, he was hired by a Tampa plaintiff’s law firm — James, Hoyer, Newcomer, Smiljanich & Yanchunis P.A. — as an investigator. He focuses on due diligence for companies, document research and other research, often for fraud cases. He still does some of his own work on the side, but is gainfully employed in a new area.

Jim says he snared this job “totally by accident.” He was doing some of his own work and went to dinner at a friend’s invitation and ended up sitting next to the chief investigator for the law firm. The investigator was a former FBI agent, and Jim found that they had worked many of the same cases — Jim as a reporter, of course. After a long chat over dinner, the investigator was impressed, and it led to this job.

While Jim is grateful to have landed well and enjoys his work with the law firm, which he calls a “good fit,” he said he’ll never have another position like the one he held at the Sentinel. “I don’t know if any other job will be as much fun,” he recalls. “I worked in the Golden Age of journalism; I went all over the world doing investigations. I don’t know if you can beat that.”

But Jim’s advice for other laid-0ff and bought-out journalists is to be realistic and move on — the first step is acknowledging that what they had is gone. “I got off the train when I realized it wasn’t going anywhere I wanted to go,” he says. He has a few specific tips, and is happy to offer more to those looking to make a transition. (jimleusner@gmail.com):

*Try to find someone in a new field where you have some interest (and ideally, background or experience) and get them to mentor you and teach you the ropes of the new field. Ask them to be specific in their advice. Get training or, as he did, a license or credentials — again, it’s always better to do so before you might need it.

*Network “like crazy.” Jim says if he hadn’t been networking in the PI field, he never would have sat next to that former FBI investigator at dinner. “I wasn’t looking for a job at a law firm; that’s when it happens,” he says.  He always carries business cards in his pocket — even when going to the grocery store. “People should be able to find you easily,” he says.

*Look for training and small-business expertise — if you’re at all interested in opening up your own shop — at workshops and at organizations such as SCORE. (http://www.score.org/index.html…free online business advice and free face-to-face counseling.)

Please let me know of others like Jim I could feature in this space, and thanks to him for being the first featured transitionee!

Now a few events to mention:

First, the price has been lowered for the event at the National Press Club next Saturday (10/17). And you’ll note a few familiar names as panelists — including Bart Jansen, a campaign finance and Senate expert (who is also a member of the “Gang of 45” and looking for work!). For more information, email Kate Hunter at khunter@cq.com. Here is the agenda:

Political Reporting:

a crash course on how information flows

in Washington

Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009

at the National Press Club


8:30 – 9 a.m. – Registration & Breakfast

9 – 9:15 a.m. – Welcome and Introductions: NPC President Donna Leinwand, reporter, USA Today

9:15 – 10:30 a.m. – How to Find a Good Political Scoop:  How to step back from the pack, develop key sources and make headlines amid the growing media competiion on the Hill

  • Susan Crabtree, reporter, The Hill
  • Tim Starks, reporter, Congressional Quarterly
  • Moderator – am going to ask Rick Dunham but haven’t nailed this down yet

10:30 – 10:45 a.m. – Coffee Break

10:45 a.m. – 12 noon – Covering Congress:  Discover the secrets of navigating the Capitol and covering legislative developments with depth and finnesse

  • David Rogers, senior congressional reporter, Politico
  • Patricia Murphy, columnist for PoliticsDaily.com
  • Jay Newton-Small – congressional correspondent, Time Magazine
  • Mike Ssoraghan, reporter, The Hill

12:00 – 1:30 p.m. – Luncheon Keynote:  Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief, USA Today

1:30 – 1:45 – Dessert & coffee reception with keynote speaker

1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. – Campaign Finance:   Get a jumpstart on the 2010 midterm elections and find the best places to follow the money trail

  • Sheila Krumholz, executive director, Center for Responsive Politics
  • Bart Jansen, former campaign finance reporter, Congressional Quarterly
  • Bill Allison, Editor, Sunlight Foundation
  • Jonathan D. Salant, Bloomberg News, moderator

2:45 – 4 p.m. – 2010 Political outlook:  As Congess Tackles major health and climate bills, learn the lay of the land or next year’s elections and how legislative action might tip the scales.

  • Jennifer Duffy, senior editor, The Cook Political Report;
  • Gregory Giroux, senior writer, CQ Politics
  • Kathleen Hunter, Senate Reporter, Congressional Quarterly

Also,  the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism Fellowship
The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism is offering fellowships worth $2,000 for four days of study in business journalism January 5 – 8 in Phoenix, AZ. There are two programs:

The deadline to apply is November 2. For further information on both seminars, including how to apply, please visit http://www.businessjournalism.org/2010/JanuarySeminars/index.cfm

I will — for the fourth consecutive year — be among the presenters at the Business Journalism Professors seminar, and can tell you that attendees in past years have raved about both seminars.

Now for some job listings! Keep those leads coming this week!!!

*USA Today, after layoffs and buyouts over the past few years, is rebuilding and has two reporter openings.

Reporters (2 positions) – Find Media – Journalism – Newspaper Jobs at USA TODAY in Mc Lean, Virginia
*Bisnow MediaCommercial Real Estate Reporter
Location: Washington D.C.


High growth, popular online publication Bisnow looking for DC based commercial real estate reporter. Must have experience covering this specialized world. Competitive compensation. Please send resumes to Mark@Bisnow.com

Associate Editor
Location: Washington, DC
Platts is seeking an experienced news reporter to cover the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the leading newsletter on that beat, Inside FERC. The job requires detailed and insightful coverage of electricity and natural gas regulation and its impact on those industries. Experience in Washington agency and congressional coverage is strongly preferred as is energy industry experience. Please apply online: https://MH.taleo.net/careersection/3/jobdetail.ftl?lang=en&job=11119

*The Journal of Commerce
Business Reporter
Location: Washington, DC
A dynamic news weekly with international scope and a high-level audience is seeking a reporter who understands business, is adept at analyzing large trends as well as reporting breaking news and is comfortable bringing those skills to print and online media. The successful candidate will provide sophisticated, insightful coverage on freight transportation and logistics in the United States as it fits into the domestic economy and global supply chains, including the major companies in the trucking business and developments regarding shippers, organized labor and regulation affecting the business. The reporter takes part in the wide range of opportunities in our publishing business, including representing The Journal of Commerce at industry events and taking part in the planning and hosting of Web casts regarding transportation. Requirements include a minimum of three years experience covering news as well as a demonstrated aptitude for writing about business in an authoritative way for a knowledgeable audience; understanding transportation markets and the impact of commercial logistics and transportation on the economy; an ability to cultivate sources and contacts to bring original content to the publication and related platforms; flexibility in writing for print and for the Web and for using data and analysis in developing stories.

We recognize people as our most valuable asset. Our competitive salary and benefits package includes medical insurance and prescription drug coverage, dental insurance, 401(k) and retirement plan, full disability benefits, paid life insurance, tuition reimbursement, paid sick, personal, and vacation days, business casual dress, and ten paid Company holidays. UBM Global Trade, Inc. proudly supports Affirmative Action. UBM Global Trade, Inc. is an Equal Opportunity Employer. UBM Global Trade, Inc. is committed to workforce diversity. M/F/D/V encouraged to apply. Qualified applicants will receive consideration without regard to age, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin. Applicants encouraged to confidentially self- identify when applying. Employment contingent upon successful completion of background investigation. Pre-employment drug screening required. Only candidates whose profiles closely match requirements will be contacted during this search. Please submit resume and three writing samples to mbanta@joc.com.

Happy hunting out there!



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Friday grab bag of ideas, leads Back-to-work grab bag

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