Considered working as a Features Writer and Editor? The following interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect in the position, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to WritingJobs.org and is one of many interviews with health care professionals which among others include a Technical Writer and a Staff Writer.
I am the Features Editor and Writer/Columnist for a large daily newspaper and have worked in the journalism industry for over 10 years.
In addition to overseeing the features department, I write human interest stories and write two columns per week on topics of my choosing. I generate, research and write feature stories, proofread other writers work, and layout the section for production.
I’m generally satisfied with my position, but the one thing I would change is the number of female reporters. I work in a male-dominated office, and the men I work alongside are what you would imagine the stereotypical “boys club” to be – sexist. They undermine my efforts and seem to disregard my ideas and voice because I’m a woman. Overall, I’d rate my job satisfaction at a 7, which isn’t too shabby. I truly love what I do.
I’ve fallen in love with several of the subjects I’ve interviewed for feature stories over the years, whether it’s a story about a seeing eye dog or a child suffering from an illness we’re trying to bring awareness to. I feel like I’ve found my stride telling someone else’s story that may not have been heard otherwise. The people I meet and interact with make my job seem like a bonus.
The newspaper business is a high stress job, as it is extremely deadline oriented.
The strangest thing that happened to me was when I did a story on George Clooney being in town. Clooney had recently been in ‘Batman’ and was in town with friends – they ended up going to a local club, and then to a diner. When I started digging into the story the next day, I found out they were looking for a strip club, but were directed to the waterfront bar that’d just opened. I did the feature part of the story, leaving the strip club angle out, and a news reporter added to it after I’d gone home for the night. When I got in the next day and saw the paper, I was surprised to find out that they did an in-depth story on the two women he supposedly hooked up with, had details about the strip club, etc. – a very tabloidy story.
And they put my name on it, which infuriated me, because I had nothing to do with that part of the story. My phone began ringing and a woman, identifying herself as Mrs. Kind, spoke to me. Turns out, she is ‘Spin City’ actor Richard Kind’s mother, who lives in the area, and who was in town with George Clooney, who is a close friend. Clooney accompanied Richard Kind to the area for the unveiling of his dad’s gravestone, a Jewish tradition a year after the person is buried. Kind’s mother screamed at me for over 10 minutes, told me what a terrible person I was; I just cried. That’s the only time (I hope) I’ve ever experienced someone being angry at something I’d written – and I hadn’t even written that part!
I get out of bed every morning and go to my job because I really am excited by what I do. I get to meet a ton of interesting people, listen to their stories and then translate them for others – it’s a wonderful gig. I feel the most warm and fuzzy when I get a call or a thank you note from someone saying they liked what I wrote about them – it’s not life-changing, what I do, but it changes me a little everyday.
The challenges I face at work are usually pretty manageable when you look at the big picture. Although, when they’re happening it doesn’t seem this way. An example of my daily challenge is when the advertising department at the newspaper gets to hold the paper layout so they can sell more advertising space for the next day. What this means is that the editorial departments can’t layout the paper for the next day, holding us up. So even it’s 8pm and we’ve been there since 8am, we have to wait until they’ve hit their “mark” until we can do our work and then go home.
Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? Working at a newspaper can be stressful at times, depending on the day. Since we work on deadline, everything comes down to the last minute, whether it’s editing a story down to make it fit in the little space we’ve been allotted, or finding filler wire stories to fill in the extra space we’ve suddenly acquired due to a last minute canceled advertisement. I don’t feel that I maintain a healthy work-life balance, because I can never go home and not think about work. Whether it’s someone calling me about a re-write or worrying about a story I can’t quite capture, I always take my work home with me.
My salary is in the high $30,000s, which is pretty standard for my position in the journalism field. I make ends meet, but, sure – I’d love to be paid an obscene amount of money.
It’s very hard for me to secure any vacation time, and when I do, I usually get phone calls demanding that I “walk” my stand-in’s through one process or another. So, no, I’m never able to fully relax or be at ease during the little vacation time I manage to take.
I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Public Relations, and was hired to an entry-level writer’s position a few years out of college. To be a writer, you have to love to write – it’s that simple. You can take all of the journalism classes you want, but if it’s not in your soul, you won’t love what you do – or even tolerate it.
I’d tell a friend considering working at a newspaper to have thick skin and drink a lot of coffee, as well as Diet Coke.
In five years, I’d love to be writing a novel – sitting on a secluded beach somewhere, tapping away on my laptop, with my bottom in the sand and the waves lapping at my toes.