Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter the English Major?

7 Dec

News flash: my college classmate from 2010 is now a professional journalist.

Here’s a pop quiz: what comes to mind when someone says their kid graduated last year with an English degree? Poverty, right? Coffee shops, bookstores, restaurants — those are the places that many would expect to find the former English major in the year right after college.
So how do you explain Ned Campbell?
A 2010 English graduate of SUNY Fredonia, Ned already has a career for which many of my humanities-major friends might consider sacrificing a limb: he is a copy editor and reporter for three newspapers in Syracuse, New York.
Now, that isn’t to say that all humanities majors are vying for positions at newspapers. What they are competing for, however, is a job in their desired field. Yet even amidst all of the competition, Ned has managed to achieve just that: he is working in his field; he is doing something he loves; and he has been doing it since before graduation. These days, that’s quite an impressive feat. Who would have thought it — English skills might actually help launch your career?  In writing?
Ned is the editor of three weekly publications in Syracuse: The Eagle, which is the city newspaper; The Eagle Bulletin, for eastern suburbs of the city; and The Eagle Observer for suburbs west of Syracuse.
“I do a lot of editing and managing of content, and coordinating the efforts of myself and the other reporters,” he explained. He also gets to write, and although his primary “beat” is the school districts in the area, he also added, “I pretty much write about anything.”
English (Actually) Pays Off 
Ned started at Eagle Newspapers during the spring semester of his senior year at Fredonia after applying for the company’s New York Press Association sponsored internship. “So, I got that,” he said, “and I worked for eight weeks as an interim editor for the Skaneateles Press. So right away I got a lot of experience in that field, covering local news.” Not only did that internship give Ned the opportunity to gain some field experience, it also meant he was in the right place at the right time when editorial position opened up at The Eagle Observer. “That was nice, to have that [internship] lead right into a job,” he said.
But of course, it wasn’t all luck; Ned had done some other things very right, too. For one thing, he worked as the managing editor of The Leader, Fredonia’s student newspaper, throughout his senior year. “Working for The Leader was probably the best thing for me,” he explained. “Being involved with the newspaper made for an easy transition to my internship at Eagle Newspapers.” Ned added that his advisor at The Leader, SUNY Fredonia journalism professor Elmer Ploetz, played a key role in his decision to become a journalist. “He was a good role model and was always very supportive and encouraging. He let me know that I was good at editing, because you don’t always know what your strengths are, and he encouraged me to pursue a career in journalism.”
“I appreciate everything I got out of [SUNY Fredonia’s] English department,” he continued. And although Ned cites English Grammar For Everyone with Dr. Natalie Gerber as “the best class I took, considering my field,” he also stated that he “learned to become a better writer through every class at Fredonia. And if you don’t have a basic understanding of writing, you can’t focus your skills into a more specific field.”
As central as writing was to Ned’s education, his writing skills are not the only thing he feels he gained as an English major. “It’s a thinking major,” he said. You’re thinking in new ways and you’re being critical, and [having that background] has definitely been a benefit for me.”
Ned’s Advice
So how did Ned get to be where he is at such a young age?
“By being committed to the work I’ve been doing,” he said. “There have been times when it’s like, week after week, you’re hitting that early Monday morning deadline, and sometimes you think, ‘I wish I could just take the week off.’ But I’ve always been committed to it, and I’ve always treated every story as important.”
And to the nearly- and recently-graduated, Ned advises: “Get out there; go find an internship. It doesn’t have to be in the exact field you want to be in, but do something where you can write, where you can learn, and try to get published. Work for free if you have to. Write for free. A lot of newspapers will put you to work as an intern and not pay you, but you never know what it might turn into.”
And it could turn into something very promising. “It’s funny how fast things move,” Ned said, of his experience at The Eagle. “I started as an intern a year and a half ago and now I have an intern sitting behind me. He’s not so much younger than me.”
And maybe with a future just as bright.
Post by Carly Morgan
Read the original @ greatwriting
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