Writing the Hand That Feeds You

A list of resources for fiction writers, journalists, and other media mavens....

When I’m looking for work, I always visit these sites first:

Ed2010 (for magazine/newspaper advice, jobs, and gossip)
Mandy.com (for film and TV work)
MediaBistro (for an inside look at the publishing trenches. And lots of jobs.)

Now, to find the best media jobs, it’s handy if you’re:

(a) Married to a hotshot movie producer, media executive, magazine/book editor, or publisher.
(b) The offspring of someone rich or famous.
(c) The graduate of a high-profile school with a good alumni network. (Think: Harvard).
(d) The friend of someone in the industry.

If not, it’s time to put your nose to the grindstone and start setting up search agents at the major job banks, like Monster.com, CareerBuilder, and HotJobs, which will deliver career opportunities to your inbox on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

The problem: When you apply for a job through one of these sites, you need to submit your resume within milliseconds of it being posted or you’ll get lost in a deluge of 10,000 other resumes. Applying directly through a company’s own corporate job board is the best way to go, and diligently visiting the niche media job sites is another intelligent choice. Of course, without a recommendation from someone inside the company, your prospects won’t be amazing, and the competition is fierce even on the smallest of job boards. But if you’re smart and persistent about the way you find and apply for jobs, eventually you’ll land something of merit.

(Remember, most media companies prefer to hire people they already know, people they drink with, people their brother-in-law recommended to them, or their best interns. All businesses are like this to a certain degree, but in an industry where nonobjective taste applies—“Is this person a good writer, editor, or director?”—the whimsy of the bosses reigns.)

The following are my favorite media job spots online. The emphasis is on writing and editing, but many of these sites are handy for all sorts of film, TV, advertising, public relations, and Internet media work.

The California Journalism Job Bank has lots of jobs for journalists in California.

Craigslist always has writing and film jobs available in it’s various regions and categories, although most of these jobs tend to be of the no- or low-pay variety.

Editor & Publisher Magazine.

College-level students should visit the Institute for Humane Studies for internship, scholarship, and career building tips. The IHS is a very writer-friendly site, with a lot essay contests and the like.

I Want Media (jobs).

In addition to top-notch independent film reporting, indieWire.com has an extensive list of film work in its classifieds section, including screenwriting gigs (much of the work is volunteer-based, so don’t expect riches here).

The IRE Job Center (provided by the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization).

Job Bank USA.


Listing the “Nifty Fifty”—the 50 top online job boards for journalists (including the job boards for Knight Ridder and the Associated Press)—as well as other resources for writers, the Detroit Free Press’ Jobs Page is a must visit.

Lit.org (see the Writer’s Wanted category).

The NAA (Newspaper Association of America) sponsors the Newspaper CareerBank.

The National Diversity Newspaper Job Bank (news & media jobs).

SunOasis features a few jobs and lots of tips, links, and resources for writers.

The Society for Professional Journalists (the Careers List requires paid membership).

The Time Warner job board includes the inside scoop on job offers at Time Inc., HBO, New Line Cinema, DC Comics, AOL, etc. (If anyone can get me a job writing and/or editing comic books, I'll give 'em a cookie. A really big cookie. And whiskey. And $20. Thanks.)

The Write Jobs, part of the Writer’s Write network, is a staple of every writer’s job hunt.

And there are a number of websites out there specifically oriented toward film/TV jobs (like the excellent Mandy.com, as well as Crew-Net.com and The Hollywood Creative Directory’s job board), acting jobs (BackStage.com, ActorsAccess.com), and media jobs in general (EntertainmentCareers.net, ShowbizData.com, VarietyCareers.com, and the NY-centric EITC newsletter). Some of the more specialized sites charge membership fees for full access to their classified job ads, but with so many free sites out there, joining a pay site isn’t usually necessary.

Also, try and get your hands on the UTA Job List email, a much-coveted inventory of entertainment jobs and celebrity assistant gigs (mostly in Los Angeles, with a smattering of jobs in NYC and elsewhere). This clandestine list’s origin is supposedly the United Talent Agency, but if you contact UTA directly they’ll say you’re crazy; you have to find a friend who gets the list and have them forward it to you every week (Jesse Albert is noted as the list administrator in the copyright notice at the bottom of the email). This list is the bread and butter of the jet-setting HollywoodMomentum.com professional ass-kisser crowd, and there’s no other way in, unless you’re sleeping with someone at UTA.

When all else fails, cold-call the company you love the most. Pursue your dream like a rabid dog (but don’t be scary or annoying). Find out the names of the people in charge. Track down every detail you can about their likes and dislikes and work habits. Then send in artful letters asking for advice. Submit your resume directly to the top dogs and the human resource department. It may not get you a job, but letters of inquiry and unsolicited resumes rarely hurt.

And forget thee not: The importance of writing a good cover letter should not be underestimated. Be engaging, make yourself sound interesting and intelligent but don’t be an egomaniac, summarize your skills and experiences and show how much you know about the company you’re applying to. And watch those typos. They can cost you the job.


Related articles:

"Extra! Extra! Newspaper Jobs in NYC," by Ken Liebeskind for The New York Job Source.

"Industry Newsletter Web Sites Grow With Online Job Searches," by Megan Ballinger for The Wall Street Journal Online.


Writers Wanted: Every un-agented fiction scribe should check out Maud Newton's excellent article regarding the process of submitting unsolicited fiction to magazines in this flailing, inbred world of modern literary publishing we readers and writers have to contend with these days. The primary interview is dated, considering editor Brigid Hughes has left the Paris Review, but it's still an insightful look into the belly of a beast I love. And Maud's other editor interviews are not to be missed.

Personal aside: I spotted Paris Review founder George Plimpton on the street once, and after briefly making eye contact I followed him into a bookstore where I was lucky enough to see him speak as part of a panel on the dour state of contemporary lit publishing. Every editor and publisher in attendance expressed concern that they received far more in the way of submissions than subscriptions; we're living in a world of a few hundred thousand aspiring writers but only a handful of readers.

In the midst of all the bad news, Plimpton's playful, sardonic wit and gallows humor, mixed with a lively dose of optimism and historical perspective, was mesmerizing, and his death a couple of years later struck me with a sharp pang. Would the much-heralded death of serious, inventive short fiction die with him? Plenty are trying to keep up the good fight, but are the readers out there... and has professional writing become strictly a well-connected Ivy League sport?

And now I hear Kurt Vonnegut Jr., another of my literary heroes, is wandering around the East Village, but I've yet to see him, despite both of us being in NYC for years. I must track him down. But stalking is not my strong point; I'm too lazy.

Gawd Dash It All: MS Word Shortcuts Made Easy

I'm always amazed by how poorly people actually understand the programs they work with every day. Even in newsrooms filled with professional journalists, at the desks of overworked office assistants, and at the computers of recent college grads, I've seen otherwise intelligent individuals blunder away at their word processing software, blissfully unaware that they could double their processing speed if they only understood some of simplest functions beyond the standard changing-of-the-font, typing, saving, printing routine.

(And don't get me started on how many highly paid executives I've met that are proud of their inability to check their own email, type up a memo, or wipe their own ass without the aid of three assistants, four staff members, and two executive committee meetings.)

In a highly readable, shockingly funny article (for a very boring tech piece, that is), Herb Tyson explains how you can have the Microsoft Word "Paste Special Unformatted Text" option always "at your fingertips."

Not only does he give you a handy macro for quickly executing the "Paste Special Unformatted Text" command, but this is also a wonderful overview of macros, shortcuts, and cutting and pasting in general. You’ll be making new macros of your own in no time, Alt/Tab(bing) like a pro (this is the easiest way to switch between active program screens), pasting with the best of them, and creating nifty toolbar shortcuts for your macro and shortcut-key challenged coworkers. All tech articles should be this easy, helpful, and enjoyable to read.

Also, be kind and at least teach your Neanderthal friends the easy-to-remember MS Word keyboard shortcut basics, many of which actually work across numerous programs and platforms and all of which will keep them writing/typing fast: ctrl-a selects all, ctrl-x cuts (while copying), ctrl-c copies (without cutting), ctrl-v pastes, ctrl-b bolds, ctrl-i italicizes, ctrl-u underlines, ctrl-z will undo, ctrl-y to redo, shift-F3 changes the capitalization (I love that one), F4 repeats the last executed command, shift-F4 repeats the last Find/Search, shift-F5 jumps you to your last edit point(s), and shift-F8 brings up the macros.

More cool shortcuts can be found at the MS Word MVP FAQ, which also explains some nifty tricks, like how to copy and paste a text’s style & formatting without copying the text itself (ctrl-shift-c & ctrl-shift-v), how ctrl-space removes character formatting from selected text, how the paragraph markers contain all the paragraph formatting data (which can be copied and pasted as well), etcetera, etcetera.

And while we’re on the subject of MS Word: I wish I’d known how to turn my “invisibles” on (a visual representation of space and paragraph marks that improves your ability to proofread) and use the Format Painter tool earlier in life (the little broom icon on your Word toolbar that is also accessed with ctrl-shift-c). Oh, and hold down the Ctrl key while using the scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom in and out in Word and many other appilcations.

And using the following on your numeric keypad will give you an en dash (–) and em dash (—), respectively, for those times when Word hasn’t autocorrected them into your sentence for you: ctrl-minus and ctrl-alt-minus. See the Wikipedia article on dashes for more info on the proper use of the en and em dash.

Oh, and for accents, use any of the following (as needed) and then type the letter you want to accent:

For an Acute (e.g., é): ctrl-' (apostrophe)
Grave (À): ctrl-` (the apostrophe under the tilde "~")
Tilde (ñ) ctrl-shift + ~ (tilde)
Circumflex (î) ctrl-shift + ^
Dieresis (ÿ) ctrl-shift + : (colon)

Also see: Celebrity Cola's MS Word Macro for Preserving Formatting When Posting Documents Online.


In other news:

* Dumpster Bust asks, "Is the Halliburton-Bush-Cheney connection all on the up and up, or is there even more to all of this than meets the eye?"

* Rolling Stone squawks as PBS and NPR are overun by the right: "Muzzling the Muppets: The Bush administration wants to force public broadcasting to toe the Republican line."