Chapter 5: Making it to the Big Time
Moving to Reuters from a trade magazine was like moving up to the big leagues from the minor leagues. Like most professions, journalism has several levels. In giant corporations, a similar move occurs when someone in charge of a formerly back-water division suddenly has to manage dramatic growth – and expectations – and gets transferred to corporate headquarters.
Back then, circa 1983, the classic journalism career path meant starting at a small newspaper working your way up to a big city daily, like the New York Times. I imagined the same for myself although writing for the New York Daily News was my dream. My working-class family read the News, not the more up-scale Times. When I had to buy and read the Sunday Times for my high school political science class, my family was more shocked than anything else.
But back to my career path. As I’ve written already, the path of moving up the newspaper chain was one I had left when I switched to the world of trade magazines. Even within that world, there’s a hierarchy. Association magazines are normally looked down upon by other trader journalists because, most times, they’re used merely as public relations and lobbying tools and don’t involve much real journalism. I’d been fortunate to work for an association that allowed its editors and writers to be real journalists. Topics of stories there were decided upon by the editors and few topics were taboo. The public relations aspects of what we wrote were not discussed. We were doing service journalism, trying to help our readers be better at their jobs, an approach I also would take toward trade magazine journalism later in my career.
But that said, going to Reuters was an entirely different world. First, my salary cracked the $30,000 a year mark, which had seemed only a distant possibility when I was at a trade magazine. (this was in 1983, by the way, when $30,000 went farther than it does today). Reuters at the time was unionized, a result of its first U.S. bureau being in New York City. I joined the New York Newspaper Guild because it was the union that first unionized Reuters. Unions are now demonized and blamed for everything from the fall of the U.S. economy to the government’s ineffectiveness. My reaction? I’ve never had as good a salary or as many benefits as I did when I was in the Guild. No one person has the bargaining power that all employees speaking as one have.
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