Monday, July 7, 2008

Not even Gold Bond can stop my itch for journalism

Pictured is yours truly getting high on journalism and working the Fourth of July on the front page at my desk in the FLORIDA TODAY newsroom. I had fun with the headline on this page: To convey a happy Independence Day to Brevard County readers, I wrote a three-column, one-deck, 50-point headline, "My county, 'tis of glee."

Update: Version on the DJNF blog here.

Hi, everyone. I'm Andrew Knapp, and I have a problem: I'm an addict.

I've been doing it steadily now for 10 months. I do it in my spare time. I do it at work.

Before that, it was on and off for five years while I was in college. I dabbled. I experimented with different varieties. And it was great. I couldn't get enough.

My problem: I'm a journalism junkie. Editing. Writing. Photography. Design. It runs through my veins.

Daily deadlines give me a rush. I get a thrill from the pressure.

I read about it. I'm there for it. Knowing is fun.

I enjoy journalism so much that I dedicated five years of my life to getting two degrees in it. But I was told on the first day of college in 2002 that I wouldn't earn much money if I became the addict I wanted to become.

Last summer, I had to choose a particular type of drug. I was a Dow Jones editing intern at Newsday, where my stubbornness and tireless questioning were valued. (Read about that here.)

And that was it. I was a hopeless case: I was hooked on copy editing.

In browsing for a full-time job, I compiled links to media employment boards to make it easier for others to satisfy their addictions, too. is offering fewer such avenues these days, so budding journalists need all the help they can get.

The result of my search: My job as a copy editor at FLORIDA TODAY - which was brought to my attention by Gannett's corporate headquarters - accumulates all the journalism genres into one position. All the knowledge I have consumed about photos, reporting, grammar, headlines, design and the Internet comes into play.

But this business isn't easy. In only three years of newspaper work, it's wearing on me. The internship programs at both papers where I worked were eliminated just after I left. If that had happened before I showed up, I wouldn't be where I am today.

FLORIDA TODAY suffered its own hit earlier this year when it lost six journalists. And now that I've been out of school for a year, it's obvious that the real journalism world isn't the idyllic one painted in the classroom.

But buyouts and budget cuts can't affect me as long as I do something each day that makes me proud. Today, it was a misspelled word in a headline. Yesterday, it was a photo that didn't correspond with the story. It's in the details; it's in the big picture. Journalism is the drug I use to dull the pain of negativity.

And now that I've been doing it for five years - mostly as a student - that journalism rush is just as thrilling as it was when I started.

Even in my spare time, I can't avoid journalism. I'm exploring Florida - a place I had never seen until moving here for a job - and writing about it on my blog, The Offlede. My still camera, video camera and notebook are always close. And of course, the AP Stylebook is stuck in my head, and no amount of therapy is getting it out. For that, I thank (or blame) professor Ed Trayes at Temple University.

Some of my favorite spare-time achievements:
  • As a copy editor, I had a unique opportunity to be trained by Gannett's video journalists. I'm now shooting whenever I can.
  • I chronicled a visit to New Orleans two years after Hurricane Katrina.
  • I created an interactive map of wildfires and took photos, all of which were used by FLORIDA TODAY.
  • I recorded my impressions, which were controversial at times, of the American Copy Editors Society conference, where I also participated in a panel discussion.
  • I attended launches of rockets and space shuttles from Kennedy Space Center.
  • I watched the newspaper movie "-30-" and blogged about it, and The New York Times linked to my post. I got about 500 hits that day.
  • Future blog entries include a visit to the Newseum in Washington and to San Francisco and Napa Valley.
One of the best compliments a co-worker has ever given me came last week. "I really admire your passion for journalism," she said.

It's because of my zeal for this profession that I'm able to remain optimistic.

Whether you're 50 and want to retire as a journalist, or 20 and want to become a professional, don't let anything stop you. Keep your head down, and keep doing what you do.

And don't forget to love every minute of it.

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