Someone sent Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon an internal job announcement for a new Style section blogger at the Washington Post. The gig requires early mornings and late nights and asks that the blogger produce about 12 posts a day, “with the knowledge that one great sentence can equal one great post.”
Immediately, journalists on Twitter jumped all over the Post for its listing. “This is the journo equivalent of an M4W personal ad written by someone who’s never seen anything but porn,” AdWeek reporter Sam Thielman cracked. “Like a parody of a blogger job ad,” wrote J-school prof Suzy Steffen. “This is not how you recruit for journalism jobs,” groused HuffPo Politics social media editor Ethan Klapper.
All these people are utterly wrong. This is, potentially, a great job. Any aspiring, driven pop-culture writer would be a fool not to apply for it. I am not saying this because Slate is owned by the Washington Post Company, but because a job exactly like this is the reason I have a career.
In 2007, through a string of coincidences and lucky breaks too absurd to relate here, I heard that New York magazine was launching a culture blog. I applied for the job and, thank God, I got it, and that spring we launched Vulture. The lead editor left for another position within weeks of our launch, so I woke up early. I stayed up late. I spent every waking moment writing and editing posts. I lived a life, that is to say, exactly like that described in that WaPo job description. Oh, except for that I was responsible for 15 posts, not 12.
Things got a bit better six months later, when we hired a second writer. Then we both woke up early and stayed up late and spent every waking moment writing and editing posts. That is what you do when you really love writing about culture and you want to get paid for it! Now that other guy edits the culture section at New York, and I work here at Slate. And that’s because of being willing to work like dogs in jobs just like the WaPo listing.
Of course, in many ways we were lucky. There’s no guarantee that whoever takes this “inhuman” job will enjoy the institutional support and editorial freedom that Lane and I had at Vulture. (The Post is not always great about that.) But she will have a salary, benefits, and an amazing platform to showcase her voice, 12 times a day. As Jessica Plautz asks, how is this different from filing copy for a wire service, another example of the difficult entry-level news job that rewards intense dedication for a short period of a journalist’s life? It’s not. Except at a wire service you can’t occasionally get away with one-sentence posts.
It’s easy for journalists my age to make fun of jobs like this. But whoever ends up doing this—if they do it well—may well be replacing us five years from now. So heads up.