Growing up and bucking up

The last time I wrote, I’d sort of settled on the idea that I wanted to keep screwing around in my beloved, hip St. Petersburg and apply to grad school only to prolong my ability to screw around.

I said I didn’t want to apply to the small-town jobs I knew I’d be a shoe-in for because I didn’t want to spend my days covering agriculture and the kinds of city council meetings you see on Parks and Rec, and I didn’t want to spend my weekends at country bars. Or more likely — alone in my sad, small-town apartment.

Almost immediately after writing that post, I applied for a job. It’s not a particularly small town — it sits in one of the state’s largest counties — but it’s a good 45-minute drive to a decent concert venue or brewery, and another half hour or so from my friends and family. Still, I would have been stupid not to apply.

As presumptuous as it may sound, I sort of knew I’d get it. Especially after I was called in for an interview so quickly. It took a few weeks to get an offer, but I’d already started freaking out over my living situation and having visions of a miserable and lonely “small-town” life.

I was also set back a bit when I found out my dad’s cancer is not responding so well to this new drug trial and that he has to have brain surgery (which he’s having tomorrow). For a minute, I let myself think that maybe I shouldn’t be stressing myself out with this job and I should just stay close to home and spend as much time with my family as possible. The realist in me however, began seeing my dad’s condition as a reason to take the job and work toward being independently financially stable, morbid as that is. But that sort of thing should be motivation to grow up, not slack off.

After having some time to think and thoroughly stalking most of future young coworkers on social media — and seeing that they aren’t, in fact, horribly depressed and lonely — I’m doing alright. I’m even excited.

This job will be a stepping stone to other opportunities that will hopefully, eventually, land me back in the place I want to be. By putting my time into this job now, I’m setting myself up to get my dream job in my dream city in a few years. That sounds a lot better than screwing around and struggling for employment through my 20s.

Hey, I was offered a full-time reporting job just two months out of college, at a newspaper that’s only about an hour away from my friends and family. Holy shit! This is the best possible scenario! I get to start my career at 21. Who knows where I’ll be by the time most people my age figure their stuff out.

Pardon my conceit.

Today I realized fighting for a part-time service job that will do nothing to enhance my life except pay me minimum wage really isn’t worth my time when I have so much else going for me. I’d rather be freelancing for close to nothing than wasting my life standing behind a counter for a boss who thinks I’m useless.

Also realized that, eventually, I’m going to need to be own boss … Though I imagine taking orders from an award winning editor may be a little easier for me than from some petty coffee shop king. 

Mental note to keep writing so I’m always the one buying the coffee, not serving it. Pardon my conceit.

St. Pete music: a love story

I’ve been in love with St. Petersburg since I first started coming to State Theater for whiny pop-punk shows when I was about 15. Nearly six years later, though my music taste has changed, my adoration for this spectacularly quirky town has only grown. It’s truly the only place I want to be.

The cultural burst we’ve seen in the last year alone is astonishing. Every weekend is packed with events, from two-day music festivals to community chili cook-offs. Areas that were once barren and seen as seedy, such as the Grand Central District, are now bustling, giving way to new businesses and new life.

The St. Pete music scene is perhaps the city’s greatest treasure. Though largely untapped and, at times, completely raw, it’s full to the brim with talent. Pick any local restaurant or bar offering live music. You can be almost certain the band won’t suck, and the chances of finding genuine musical artistry are high. It’s a scene deserving of more than it receives, yet I’m selfishly thrilled to have it all to myself.

I’ve recently been overwhelmed by my love for the scene, as I’m beginning to write for a new local music blog, and am longing to shed light on every corner of it. I’m happy to have the outlet to do so now.

I can see my idols play free shows, at super-hip yet comfortably friendly venues, any night of the week. And I can have casual conversations with these people afterward without feeling starstruck or insignificant. I’m a member of this community serving a worthy purpose, just like they are. They even read my reviews. It’s sort of circle of life-ish scenario. They use their talents to make beautiful music, I use mine to tell people how beautiful it is.

The genres and styles are vast — anything from hard fast punk to earthy instrumental might be played at the same show. I want to experience it all.

I’m so excited to keep going to shows, keep meeting new people and make new friends who share my interests and passions. It’s also an amazing feeling to know that some of the musicians I’ll be covering are already good pals, and that I’ll be at least a small force in their development.

Most of all, I’m grateful for the opportunity to give the St. Pete music and arts scene the recognition it deserves, and to keep showing people why this city is the only place I want to call home.

Is brand journalism really the only way to succeed?

I have trouble believing it, but that’s what my professors and nearly all the speakers they’ve invited to our classes are telling us. Us journalism students must define and capitalize on our “personal brand” or we’re never going to make it in the biz.

Essentially, we’re being told to start a blog — a really, really popular niche blog — and dodge the whole newspaper reporter thing altogether. I imagine that’s easier said than done …

My senior seminar class, which is supposed to prepare us for a job with a professional publication, might as well be the entrepreneurial blogging course my school also offers. It makes sense for those who made it through four years in the program only to realize they aren’t cut out to be journalists, but what about those who are? What about those who have worked their asses off with internships and running the school newspaper — all while remaining at the top of the class — and have proved themselves worthy of this field?

Reporting for a newspaper and being at the forefront of print journalism innovation has been my dream for a while now. I’m not sure I’m ready to give it up just because the rest of the world doesn’t think it’s worth it. Should I give up and live off the cheap online ad sales from my blog while working part time at Starbucks to pay the real bills? It seems like that’s what I’m being encouraged to do.

Even Andy Barnes, former chief executive of the Times Publishing Company and chairman of the Poynter Institute noted the importance of brand journalism when speaking to one of my classes. A man who has a room named after him in the Poynter building told us self branding is the only way. It’s hard to deny someone like that.

Perhaps I’m in denial. Being told your desired profession is futile isn’t easy to hear after putting years of work and thousands of dollars into it. I’ve been ignoring the suggestions and warnings for the most part, choosing instead to keep believing in my fantasy land where I become a Pulitzer Prize winning education reporter for a mid-size Florida newspaper. The fantasy also includes me rolling in cash, not being overworked, having time for a family and being generally happy, which are all probably less realistic than the Pulitzer thing. Regardless, I’ve been holding on to the dream.

So, when at 4 a.m. last night, in the peek hours of my insomnia, I felt myself wanting to start a hyperlocal news blog, I surprised myself. The blog in mind would fill a niche no one else has really stepped foot in. It has potential to gain a following, and more importantly, collect revenue (though I’m not willing to delve into details here in case there are any other jaded journalism students reading this and needing an idea).

I’ve discovered a few things about myself in last year as editor of my school’s paper — I write pretty well, I possess strong leadership skills, I thrive off non-stop schedule, I have an entrepreneurial mindset and I quite enjoy being my own boss. Added up, these qualities could serve me well in my brand journalism blogging mission. But in order for me to actually go for it, it’ll have to become more important to me than being a newspaper reporter. Right now, I don’t think it is. But it could be, eventually (or, like, if I don’t get a job after graduation).

When speaking to my Florida media class the other day, Peter Schorsch, of SaintPetersblog.com, compared our current era to the 20 to 30 years after the invention of the printing press. Sub the printing press for the Internet, and we’re in a highly volatile and experimental age. In the grand scheme of time, we’re just figuring out how to digitalize the journalism world. And there are still masses of unexplored territory. In 20 years, journalism may look nothing like it does today. Newspapers may be delivered to us as holograms; who knows?

What I do know is, media is changing and I want to contribute to its development. So, maybe creating my own entrepreneurial hyperlocal blog wouldn’t be such a bad place to start. Maybe. Stay tuned, ya’ll.