Interviewing for a Job Illuminates Some Critical Issues

Rall, Ted
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p14
This article presents a narrative of the author's experience with newspaper job interviews. The only job I have ever wanted was to draw political cartoons for a living and that is what I do. I am that rare creature, the editorial cartoonist who can make a full-time living solely from syndication. Nonetheless, I do not have what I really want: a job at a newspaper, where I would work with editors and journalists on cartoons on the state and local issues that resonate strongly with readers. My cartoons are fairly well known since they are published in more than a hundred papers. As a result, I have been interviewed three times for positions at major U.S. newspapers. Those close hiring calls serve as parables for the state of the industry. In 1995, the Patriot-News flew me to the Pennsylvania capital to meet for lunch with the paper's features editor, editor in chief, and publisher. I left the meeting feeling positive about my chances. The features editor informed me that rather than hire an editorial cartoonist they have decided to go with a sports-writer. The Patriot-News already had 6 sportswriters on staff. But such are the mysterious priorities of editors and publishers. Around the same time an opening occurred at the Asbury Park Press. The executive editor worked his way down a list of boilerplate questions, everything went satisfactorily until he asked if the paper will see protesters yelling about a cartoon that I drew. I said it is not my intention to offend readers but if an idea is worth expressing, I do not think I should self-censor because of that possibility. I knew I had blown what should have been a simple no. But taking a job under impossible conditions would invariably get me fired. I still dream and wait for the telephone to ring with the news that a paper wants to talk to me and, maybe this time, actually hire me.


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