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MEDIA: PRINT, RADIO, AND TELEVISION

Journalism: Critic • Journalist • Reviewer • Writer

JOB OVERVIEW

Journalists compose reviews, articles, columns, and other text about artists, music, and the music industry.

PREREQUISITES

Verbal and writing skills are essential, and the ability to work with people is important.

POINTERS FOR THE JOB SEARCH

“You have to be willing to be poor. If you can hack that, you've got a shot. You certainly can't be living in an apartment in Manhattan, unless you're squatting or living with mom. There is no money in writing. You're treated as though you're at the absolute bottom of the totem pole. It's something you do because you're driven to do it.”

JOHN SWENSON, WRITER, SENIOR EDITOR, JAZZ.COM

CAREER TIPS

“It is really interesting to see the next wave of people coming into Rolling Stone who are Ivy League graduates, who expected journalism to be a fast track to glib success. Virtually none of those people have stayed journalists. They became publicists or talking heads or advertising people.”

Write, write, writefor your school newspaper or a local music magazine; write articles to pitch to publications; be working on something all the time.

THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THIS JOB:

“Not being able to hire people when my budget freezes.”

THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS JOB:

“Working with young writers. First of all, when you edit people, you have an exchange of ideas. More interesting things always happen when people exchange ideas; the faster the exchange, the better. It's like watching a tennis match; you sharpen your skills. I don't know what I'm going to say before I say a sentence and you don't know what I'm going to say. You may have some stock questions you're going to ask me, but the nature of the conversation is a mystery. As it unfolds, we both learn things. That's what happens when you work with people as an editor.”

“I wanted to be a writer first,” says music journalist John Swenson, whose first byline appeared in his high school newspaper. “Growing up during the 1960s in New York, I was drawn to the coffeehouse scene in Greenwich Village—the beatniks, folk music, and blues.” He entered Manhattan College in 1968 to study physics (“I was on a full scholarship. If you're smart, you're suppose to study sciences.”), but switched to English after his first year. He worked on the college newspaper staff, first writing film reviews, then a record review column, progressing to feature editor and editor-in-chief. “I really learned what it is to be a journalist and I learned a lot about your responsibility to your audience,” says Swenson. “It was the best training to learn to be a journalist.” After contributing to numerous underground newspapers for two years, he was hired by Crawdaddy magazine in 1974 as a feature editor. Two years later he was hired by Rolling Stone magazine as a freelance writer, and over the years has served as co-editor of the first two Rolling Stone Record Guides, and as editor of the original Rolling Stone Jazz Guide. He put in freelance stints with both Circus and High Times magazines as editor of their record review sections.

In 1984, Swenson slowly went broke writing music biography books until, almost destitute, he took a job in 1986 as a syndicated weekly music columnist with United Press International (UPI). As CNN usurped UPI's position in the news world, he moved to the New York Post in 1990 and worked as a horseracing columnist. He was out of work again when a new owner took over in 1993, and fired the entire newspaper staff. Tired of office work, he continued to write about the music scene as a freelance reporter. Swenson's articles are printed in leading industry magazines worldwide, and he serves as senior editor ofjazz.com. In 1999, he edited the Rolling Stone Jazz and Blues Album Guide. www.jazz.com

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareers in the Music BusinessMEDIA: PRINT, RADIO, AND TELEVISION - Journalism: Critic • Journalist • Reviewer • Writer, Radio: Music Director • Program Director • Station Manager