Presidents Message – Samantha Bennett

Samantha Bennett

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
NSNC President
Samanta BennettGot that tired, run-down feeling? Are you pressured to do more with less, slash your expenses, take on extra duties, learn technologies you’d rather not? Worst of all, are you worried that your column is getting into a rut?
You can’t wangle any more vacation, and besides, vacation just reminds you how different sleeping, lounging on the beach or hiking are from work. What to do?
Have you considered a journalism workshop or fellowship?
NSNC conference-goers can attest to the re-inspiring, re-invigorating properties of getting out of town and out of your own newsroom or even head for a while to do something that’s related to your work without actually being your (usual) work. I know I always come back from conference feeling fresh, energized and even a little more hopeful. I come home with ideas I wouldn’t have gotten on my own.
A fellowship or workshop can do that for you. And you may be able to get somebody else to pay for it.
Journalism fellowships come in all locations, durations and flavors; you can find one that’s right up your alley — or branch out and try something that’s always intrigued you. I’ve just won a Jefferson fellowship from the East-West Center in Honolulu to travel for three weeks (and yep, that includes five days in Honolulu) this fall with journalists from Asian/Pacific countries as we study and observe the presidential election. Do I usually write about politics? Nope. Do I write about Asia? Nope. But I must have written a good application essay, and I’m really, really looking forward to meeting new people, traveling, and writing about stuff I don’t usually tackle.
Expenses paid.
There are fellowships that set you up at Stanford or Michigan or Harvard for an academic year. The Poynter Institute has a raft of seminars, including one called “From Column to Blog” that meets in Florida for five days in December. And every other year, humor (and other) writers gather in Dayton for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.
You can find opportunities by actually looking at that bulletin board you may have in your newsroom, poking around online, and by asking colleagues who may have attended these things in the past.
Chances are that your editors and managers are way too busy worrying about how to get the paper out with an ever-shrinking staff and budget to give any thought at all to your professional development. We need to keep an eye out for our own paths forward, to keep our careers and our writing from getting stale. Any chance to get outside, get out of town, make new contacts, think new thoughts and come at your own back yard from a different perspective is worth looking into.
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