Are You a Jerk?

By Chris Carosa
NSNC President

I admit it. I’m not enough of a jerk. I’m guessing that explains why I’m not as successful as I could be. Do you feel the same way about yourself and your own career?

Here’s what I mean:

At a recent journalism conference, I listened to a very dynamic speaker. While he possessed journalism roots, he was there because he now owns a blossoming media enterprise. He hires reporters. Social media buzzes with links to the content generated on his site. Celebrities want to be seen with him and be interviewed by his media properties. He’s on an acquisition binge and has a very admirable business strategy.

So I did what any conference chair would do: I queried if he’d be willing to speak at our upcoming NSNC conference. He answered, naturally enough for a busy guy like him, “I only go to places where my advertisers are or where I can get new advertisers.”

Fair enough. I’ve dabbled in the publishing business. I know advertising revenue feeds the beast we call journalism. Without hesitation I asked him the obvious follow-up: “What dollar figure do you typically look for from potential advertisers?”

“Minimum $500,000,” he answered in a brash huff before hastily moving away from me.

“What a jerk,” I thought to myself. Then I remembered. I was in New York City. Different culture. Different communication style.

Then I also remembered. He’s also demonstrably more successful than I am. And not because he has any undue advantages over me. I’ve been in the journalism business far longer than he has. I’m also older than he is. Even his apparent hereditary edge (his father is a major real-estate personality in New York) didn’t give him that much. His father’s name may have opened doors for him but his early career was a train wreck of never-ending failure.

No, his blunt bottom-line demeanor set him apart from me. And is probably the reason why he’s got more zeros in his bank account than I do.

And before you think, “Well, Chris, you’re living a more honorable life,” I should add this guy shares similar values. Throughout his talk he mentioned his family and his concerns about the cost of sending them to college. (Of course, that might just be because he’s too rich to qualify for financial aid.)

Upon reflection, I realized I might have missed his real message because his blunt response triggered my low-key Midwest sensibilities.


This man was incredibly focused. Not just on his business, but on his family – including his own children and his father – and on his life in general. He had a clarity of mind to know his to-do list with a precision few have. That he was so mission-oriented wasn’t a liability, it was an asset. It’s problem the reason why he has accomplished so much, despite (or maybe because of?) his comparative youth.

Think about where you are in your career and in your life. What’s on your to-do list? Are you laser-focused on completing those tasks? If not, where can you find the tools to help? (Spoiler alert: This is a shameless plug for the 2019 NSNC conference in Buffalo next June: “Glorious Past, Prosperous Future.”)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email