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So, You Say You Want To Work In Newspapers, Eh?

The following scene is most likely playing out at a newspaper near you ...

Ah, Ms. Pennybroker, thanks so much for coming in to discuss the open copy-editing position at our newspaper. I'm Mrs. Ladbroke, the head of our human resources department. And before you ask, yes, that Ladbroke. My husband, Brad, is the publisher. We were just married three months ago, and I am still positively floating on clouds!

Let me say right up front, it was so nice of you to fly yourself in. I can tell already you have that above-and-beyond attitude we are looking for at Conglomerate Communications.

Just so you know, we received 817 applications for the position, but you are one of the 75 lucky finalists! So, congratulations!

We hope to have a final decision made on the position in the next few months -- and certainly by the end of the fiscal year.

I should also add that we pride ourselves in hiring internally at Conglomerate, so you never know! We are, after all, one, big, happy family here!

Anyway, congratulations again for making the cut, and thanks so much for being here today.

Before we get the formal interview process started, and look at your professional qualifications for the position, a few background questions. Of course we would never get into personal details [wink, wink] when talking to candidates, but it's best you know what Conglomerate demands of its newspaper employees up front.

Did I mention we are one, big, happy family here?

I should also say that Conglomerate prides itself as an equal-opportunity employer at all of its 23 daily newspapers, 17 radio stations, 14 television networks and 716 web-site affiliates. We have a history of hiring a diverse workforce.

Pennybroker ... that's Scottish, right?

OK, moving right along ...

I shouldn't tell you this, but given the extraordinary effort you made to be here today, I'll just warn you that if you answer 'yes' to any of these questions you probably aren't what we are looking for at Conglomerate...

Here goes:

First, do you have a family that might need you around occasionally -- I mean, other than a cat or a gerbil?
Are weekends all that important to you?
If you were asked to be on call 24/7 would that present a problem?
Are Christmas, New Year's, Easter and Thanksgiving really that big a deal to you?
Does sleeping during the day bother you?
Do you have what you might consider a, um, real life?
If we asked you to take two weeks unpaid leave each year would that present a problem?
We haven't given raises at Conglomerate in three years, is that a cause for concern?
Any pre-existing conditions we should know about?
Are you a smoker?

OK, good, good. You are doing so well thus far, Ms. Pennybroker. Now onto your professional qualifications ...

If you answer 'no' to any of these questions you probably aren't what we are looking for at Conglomerate. Again, just a tip, given you worked so hard to be here and all ...

Hmmm, I see from your resume that you have a bachelor's, associate's and master's degree in journalism. That certainly won't hurt!

You have worked at three newspapers over a 17-year period. You are a member of the SPJ, PEJ, ASNE, and API. You've even provided references. Oh, and look at all those awards! My!

Oh-oh ... Oh boy ...

That lack of web site experience might really, really hurt ...

Ah, never mind with all those negatives.

Let's go through your professional and practical qualifications. Again, answering 'no' to any of these questions could really jeopardize your chances.

Just being candid. We believe honesty is the best policy at Conglomerate.

OK, here goes ...

Are you good with a camera?
Do you know Quark, Excel, Microsoft Word, InDesign and Photoshop?
Can you work back and forth between a mac and a PC?
Do you have any experience with The Rosetta Stone?
Are you familiar with our web content-management system, Creeper?
Do you have strong public-speaking skills?
Can you make a great story greater?
Can you shoot and edit video?
Do you have any typesetting experience?
Do you consider yourself to be a strong, take-charge leader?
Can you blend in and be a part of a team?
Are you an ace on deadline?
Can you do without an AP Stylebook, dictionary and thesaurus, and still be grammatically correct?
Can you write edgy, appropriate headlines, cutlines, and nutgraphs on deadline?
Are you good with angry readers?
What about angry reporters and photographers?
Are you good with a coffee-maker?
Can you set a high-energy pace on the desk?
Are you a good listener?
Do you have strong news judgment?
Do you feel as if you are a strong, contributing member of your community?
And you did say you weren't a smoker, right?

Super. Just super so far, Ms. Pennybroker, but I'm afraid we'll have to cut this portion of the interview off for now.

It's 4:30, after all, and a bunch of us from the business side are meeting at the Irish Pub to celebrate our advertising director's birthday. Like I said, one, big family!

We'll get back to you to schedule your drug test in a couple of weeks time, and will hope to get you a sit-down with the managing editor shortly thereafter -- assuming, of course, we've hired one by then.

So for now, I'll wish you a good day, and hope you have a pleasant flight home.