RealJobs: David Benoit

David Benoit’s work day on Thursday, February 11, 2010.

Thursdays have the propensity to be either insanely busy or really quiet for me. Today was actually a bit in the middle. There was lots going on, but I feel like I really only did a little bit.

There were still people missing because of the snow and the whole day had, once again, a Friday feel, which is going to make Friday morning disappointing to me since I’ve felt like every day was Friday this week.

I wrote one story about a company that provides employee-benefits to small and medium sized businesses. The company lost a lot of money over the past three months because a lot of people lost their jobs, and the company had to pay their health care benefits, which was more than they had expected. But I had to do a lot of reading to figure exactly why the company lost that money, and figure out the rules on why it happened. And then I had to try and explain that in a lot fewer words. It wasn’t the easiest story, but I think it came out alright.

The other story I wrote was about a company that does outsourced customer relations for businesses. The story was about how they had basically fired their CEO and named a new one. Often times when a CEO leaves a stock falls because it makes people nervous. But in this case the stock was at a 16-month high because people liked the change.

It’s the second time recently I’ve had to write a story like that, and it can be a bit odd, because it winds up making the outgoing CEO look really bad. The last time I wrote it, the CEO was also the founder and Chairman of the Board, and he was staying on as Chairman, but I still quoted someone calling him “a destroyer of value.” That time, I called the company up to ask them what they thought and I was expecting them to be pretty unhappy. Oddly enough, they seemed to agree, and said it sounded good to them.

Since we aren’t blogging on Friday, I’ll wrap up real quick.

I really love my job, and waking up every day with no idea what I’ll do is fun. There is stress and pressure to meet deadlines, but most days are good ones.

If you are interested in journalism the best thing I can tell you is to read the best writing you can find, old and new. Gay Talese’s ‘Frank Sinatra Had a Cold” is widely considered one of the best profiles ever written. Jimmy Breslin’s “Gravedigger” is a brilliant idea. More recently, one of my favorite writers, C.J. Chivers, wrote a piece called “The School” about a Russian terrorist incident. And check out what wins Pulitzer prizes and National Book Awards. A blog I like that tries to find the best writing in journalism is gangrey.com. But, as I said yesterday, just read what you like.

Also make sure you take advantage of the writing classes and opportunities at BC. I took a bunch of writing classes, from creative non-fictions, to fiction, to feature writing. Each one gave me new ideas on structure and editing myself, and I don’t doubt they are the reason I’m often told my writing requires less editing than people expect from a young writer. And that’s important to me because, while I’m trying really hard to get better at it, I’m bad at being edited.

And don’t be totally discouraged by the terrible fate of journalism today. You might not be able to land your dream job spending months putting together a multi-thousand word story for your favorite monthly magazine. (A you aren’t alone in that dream) But somewhere there is a place that needs someone who can string together sentences into news stories. And news will always need to be told.

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