A journalistic fossil, once used in the coverage of prehistoric news, dinosaur extinction, etc.

Today I have a question for all of my Gen Y comrades in journalism: Does your online presence do more to hurt you or to help you?

I ask because after rediscovering some old opinion pieces that I wrote for my college newspaper, I have to wonder. If a journalist 20 years ago wrote a few articles that s/he was less than proud of, I can’t imagine it would be too difficult to tuck those away without worrying that a future employer might find them on his or her own accord.

It isn’t that anything I wrote in college (or even before college) was particularly damning, but I do think that my writing has evolved (and in theory, improved) over the years. Nearly three summers ago I was writing daily articles for a pop culture blog. They’ll always come up when I search my name on Google — because yeah, I do that — but my aesthetic has changed. I was 19 then and I’m nearly 22 now. I don’t submit many of those blog posts when I apply for writing positions, and I look back on some of them and laugh, but others make me cringe. It’s like watching a home video of yourself at age four, acting bratty during your family’s Florida vacation. You don’t throw poolside tantrums anymore, but it’s still embarrassing, and it still reflects on you in some way.

There are other aspects of the Internet’s double-edged sword that I’ll someday ponder at greater length on here. But in the meantime, I’m curious, what has the Internet done to help or to hinder your journalistic career?


2 Replies to “#youngjournalistproblems”

  1. I have some awful stuff online, but I think my presence has helped me tremendously overall.
    When I send in an employment inquiry, I know the employer can just Google my name and get a good idea of what I’ve done. They get a feel for the work that I’ve done better than they would by staring at a resume. Yes, I’ve written crap, but I feel my body of work (at least so far) is good enough to offset the corrections and poorly-executed stories.

    On the other hand, it raises the stakes a little bit. Even if you’re a solid young reporter, you can really hurt yourself if you make a high-profile mistake. And I haven’t ever done opinions pieces, so I don’t know if that would affect me differently. But so far, my presence online has been great for my career.

  2. I don’t know if my online presence has helped me or hurt me but I know exactly how you feel about having opinion pieces you wrote in college pop up in Google searches. Story:

    I was once interviewing someone for a story I was working on. We sat down for coffee and she said, “You don’t have a big forehead.” EXCUSE ME?

    It turns out she Googled me and read something I’d written in college about how the only thing I have in common with Tyra Banks is our big foreheads (and our big mouths). Whoops.

    I don’t think that affected my career, though I was told my current bosses Googled me before they hired me, but I wonder how much people read and how thoroughly they search. My bosses, for example, didn’t mention my big forehead.

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