As a journalism student at St. Bonaventure University, I have listened to professors who constantly told me how important experience is. My mentors emphasize internships, and I remember hearing “Even the bad experiences are important because then you know what you don’t want to do.” I never thought I would have that bad experience. I knew what I wanted, and I worked, and I loved it.
Earlier this month I visited the New York Times newsroom because I had been invited to review my resume and clips with the head of the Student Journalism Institute. After arriving, I met with a fellow Bonnie, columnist Dan Barry. He showed me around the near-silent newsroom and took me to a glass-walled room where we discussed our shared Bonaventure experiences and my activities and upcoming classes. Mr. Barry was kind, and I was thrilled to meet someone I greatly admire.
Next, I met with Richard Jones, who coordinates the internship program at the Times. Mr. Jones came ready with ideas to help me improve my clips and resume for a career as a journalist. He was sure to tell me that all the changes he suggested were to tailor my presentation as a serious reporter. He complimented my ambition and work experience and suggested I make a second digital portfolio to cater to the more journalistic and less artistic people who would be reviewing my applications in the future. I don’t think he was fond of the shooting stars and flying bats I featured on my original portfolio.
Finally, I met Margaret Sullivan, the public editor. She’s from my hometown, Lackawanna, and offered advice and other contacts for me to network with. Then she asked how I liked the Times—and I was honest.
I told her I was disappointed. Since my journalism career path began, I had my sights set on writing for the New York Times. It was my idea of “Yeah, kid, you made it.” But when I visited, I did not find the bustling, comradery-filled newsroom I imagined. My visit made me realize it was sterile journalism. While I longed to have my name and picture on its wall of Pulitzer Prize winners, I knew I wouldn’t fit in to the culture there. I knew I wouldn’t be happy in a place where I couldn’t fully express my creativity and quirkiness while still producing solid copy and respectable work every day. My talk with Ms. Sullivan helped me realize that.
The New York Times isn’t for everyone. And it’s okay if it’s not for me. I’m just glad I had this experience because, as my professors would say, now I know what I don’t want to do.
# # #
Hannah Gordon is a St. Bonaventure University student majoring in journalism and mass communication and a minor in women’s studies.