I have actual blog requests.
I was shocked, son.
If four people came back at me with four requests, I can only imagine the seas of submissions Max Bemis has gotta be swimmin' in as we speak.
But I'm a blogger of my word, and I was really into all the ideas, so I'm gonna try to get to all of them. But for right now, the lucky recipient of the very first personalized Tim Karan BlogÂ©: Cam.
Here's what Cam wanted to know:
…I think what I'm asking for is any and all advice you might give to an aspiring (music) journalist. What was the best advice given to you? Honestly, any tips/inside information would be incredible. Also, I'm wondering how you became so insanely awesome and why it is that every man pales in comparison to your boyish and rugged good-looks.*
(* Line possibly added by me)
So here's the thing.
I'm probably not the best person to give advice on how to make it as a journalist. Mostly cause I'm pretty sure I didn't take any semblance of the route most people take.
I never took a journalism class (outside of one during my freshman year of high school in which I did an in-depth interview with Alexei, the foreign exchange student) and in college, I was a (relatively unsuccessful) film student. Everything I "learned" about writing, I just kinda put together from stuff I read.
When I got out of school, and after about a four-year career at a chain record store, I took a job writing obituaries for my local newspaper. (If it sounds morbid and depressing, you're absolutely right. Let's just say I listened to a lot of Depeche Mode.) But while I was there, I started taking every feature writing assignment that nobody else wanted (from writing about how to grow tomatoes indoors to a hard-hitting preview of the New Kensington Rotary Club's holiday decorations tour). But over time, I built up enough published clips that I was able to turn that into a real reporting job for a free weekly in upstate New York.
But this isn't about me, Cam*.
(*Apparently it is.)
It's true, getting into journalism–especially music journalism–is pretty different from the way it was even five years ago. (Thanks a ton, internet. Although I am quite a big fan of your pornography.)
Blogging (or contributing to wiki-type websites) is definitely a plausible way to get a job online. However, paying online writing jobs make up a pretty small segment of all the stuff on the web. Unless you're crazy committed to writing your own blog (I started something like 23 blogs that have all ended in a muted frenzy of apathy and heartbreak), and are as good as marketing yourself as Perez Hilton, it's rough out there. But I know that our music editor Scott took this path to superstardom (if "superstardom" consists of wearing shorts to work every day once the temperature reaches above 43 degrees.)
To get a job in print journalism, there's pretty much only one way: Get stuff printed. If that sounds like a vicious circle (I can't write until I get a job and I can't get a job until I'm already paid to write), it kinda is. But the thing is, you gotta start at the bottom. Believe me. (See: The paragraph about obituaries.) This is the step that a lot of young writers tend to overlook. You can't go from zero to AFI interviews in 3.4 seconds. Write for free pubs or even submit an editorial to your local paper. The key is that you need to have those printed clips to show to employers. Without them, it's a lot like applying for a job as a shoe designer without any shoes you designed to show . (Sorry for the metaphor. I was just looking at my shoes.)
Don't ever think it's not worth writing for even tiny newspapers. I don't know about other editors, but when I'm looking at hiring a writer, I don't even look at the name of the publication. I just read the writing. If it's good, I don't care if it's from your apartment complex bi-monthly newsletter.
What makes something good? (Aside from cream filling,) That's difficult to say. I usually want a distinct voice–I want to be able to hear the writer when I read. However, don't do what I tend to do–go the Hunter Thompson route and insert yourself into the story. If you're interviewing some local band after a show, nobody cares about how long it took for you to park and what existential crises you went through deciding on what to drink.
The best advice I've ever gotten (when it comes to writing, at least. My uncle once told me never to pee on live animals and I live by that to this day): Just type like you talk. (Or in my case, the way you want to talk.) Don't insert a zillion 50-cent phrases (unless it's "Bottle full of bub.")
(Here's something else, but this might just be me: Don't write concert reviews just for submitting to magazines. If you're getting paid to do it, that's fine. But most magazines and newspapers are geared toward promoting things that are happening in the future. We don't care about the past. If the reader was there, they probably disagree with your interpretation and if they weren't, they're probably pissed they missed it and don't wanna hear about it.)
As for marketing yourself and the changing landscape of music journalism: Well. The thing is, nobody really knows how the music journalism landscape is gonna change. Except maybe Pete Townshend. If I was just starting out right now, I'd probably wanna demonstrate that I know how to appeal to both old school print readers (with printed clips) and ADD-riddled MySpace bulletin readers (with short, concise, entertaining blurby-type stuff). How you do that is really your call .
This has all gone on far too long (I couldn't keep the attention of my production director with a blog half this long, so I fear he's long-since given up on this one). I hope this helped some.
The key: Write. A ton.
If you're good at it and you put it out there, someone will notice.
Just hope that someone is Jason Pettigrew.
That'll be $150, Cam.
Fax my assistant.