Publisher of family-run paper hires multitaskers

Oct 21st, 2009 | By | Category: High Schools, News

* Journalists who can multitask in digital media are in highest demand, even at a small newspaper.
* Small newspapers may be have more job opportunities than major metro newspapers, though the pay is lower.
* At this small, family-run paper, a good job interview includes hiding tattoos and no piercings.


LANSING, Mich. — Tom Campbell, publisher of a small newspaper in Owosso, Mich., gave high school students a glimpse of what his newspaper is looking for when it fills journalism jobs. His paper is the oldest family-owned newspaper in the state. The newspaper has been in the family has since 1895.

Know how to write, know how to use technology and be ready to do any job that needs to be done. Errors in cover letters? Piercings for jewelry? Tattoos? Better remove the jewelry and cover the tattoos.

Campbell comes from the business side of the 9,000-circulation newspaper, where folks are responsible for, among other things, printing a lot of high school newspapers. To prepare for his Oct. 19 talk, Campbell interviewed people in the newsroom. He delivered “Finding a Job at the Newspaper of Tomorrow” at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association‘s fall conference.

Campbell said, “We’ve hired quite a few people in our newsroom this year and many of those people have gone onto other jobs or other newspapers. We have a corps of young writers who work there for a year or so and then they move to a nicer job.

“We get hundreds of resumes for a $10-an-hour job at the Argus-Press, so we can be really picky.”

Campbell compared the business situations at small, medium and large newspapers and called small newspapers relatively safer harbors during this economic and digital storm.

“Small markets offer a lot of job security,” Campbell said, “but you will have to do a lot of things. In our newsroom, if I’m down one person, I’m down 10 percent and if we’re down a key person, I’m down more than that.”

He said that, by the time college is finished, “The high school class of 2010 may land well, arriving with digital skills when the economy has improved and able to undercut more experienced workers on wages.” He expressed genuine interest in bringing people aboard who understand technology better than he does and who can help lead the paper forward.

But they had better not apply with a bad resume or cover letter. “Our first cut at the Argus-Press is people who have typos in their cover letters, in their resumes. If it appears to be innocent, we’ll put them in this pile in case there is no one else who has a perfect application.”

“Make sure your online presence is the best it can be. They will find you, especially if it is a larger company with a human resources department. If they’ve got pictures of you playing Beer Pong, you’ll be over in the no-thank-you pile.”


“Don’t go in there dressed casually, I can guarantee you,” Campbell said. “Folks who come in to interview with the Argus-Press dress more nicely than they will when they come to work. You go cover the Shiawassee County Fair, you’re not going to dress up.

Take out that nose ring and cover up those tattoos, too “Our policy at the Argus-Press is no piercings except the ears and then, not for the guys. That’s our policy. If that’s important to you, go somewhere else.”

While the dress code in Owosso is not universal, Campbell’s advice about job interviews will work anywhere: “Prepare. Practice. Polish. Perform.”

* How to prepare for a job interview.
* What to wear on the first day of work.

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