I’ve been dragging this story out for too long. The point is that if you think you’ll never get a good journalism job because you’ve never had a good journalism job, you’re wrong. In 1982, I’d had exactly two newspaper jobs, one for a dreary energy-management weekly trade paper, and one for The Anchorage Times, a genuinely wretched daily in a pretty interesting place. When we left off, I had just broken camp on a solo camping trip in the Chugach Moutains outside Anchorage because I could see a huge snowstorm coming to bury me alive. I’d raced back to Anchorage and cooked a big paella for Barbara, a woman in whom I was interested, and her adorable three-year-old daughter, Julie. Barbara was doing the dishes as the October blizzard pounded the cheap little condo I was renting. Julie and I were playing horsey on the rug. Cue the telephone.
“Is this Dan Baum?” said a gruff male voice that sounded fed up. My first thought was: cop.
I said I was Dan Baum.
“Yeah, this is Mike Malloy at the Asian Wall Street Journal* in Hong Kong,” the gruff voice went on, “I guess I gotta give you a fuckin’ job. I can’t stand looking at these fuckin’ red envelopes every week.”**
No discernible talent, no desirable experience, and I’d just landed my dream job at a high-prestige paper in an exotic part of the world. All it took was a stack of purloined red envelopes and a willingness to be a persistent nuisance for about six months.
So if you’re whining that you can’t get a job in journalism because you lack experience, stop that now and get to work.
*now called The Wall Street Journal, Asia edition.
**We’re still in touch. He asks me to retell that story every time we meet and, chuckling, always asks, “Did I really say that?”