Incentives for future journalists

Warning to all Bladen County students … now is a very good time to cover your eyes.

No peeking … you won’t be happy with the next sentence.

There are only five weeks until the new school year starts, and that time will go by faster than a gecko fleeing escape from a curious 5-year-old with a bucket. So with classes looming, it got me to thinking about a visit with a group of Students of the Month at a school in the area not too long ago. It was quite the interesting experience.

The first thing I did was to ask the young teenagers how many of them wanted to be journalists when the graduated into the world of full-time work.

Not a single hand went up.

Tough crowd.

So I told them anyone wanting to be a journalist would get an extra chance to win the door prize of the day — a 9.2-pound chocolate bar — and then I asked again how many wanted to be journalists. The result, as you can imagine, was predictable.

I realized right then and there that my profession and industry was in trouble. Unless, of course, some serious incentives were offered, which I’m prepared to do.

I will skip the incentives for those already in the business because, quite frankly, they know I’d be lying. All I can say to them is this: Listen, it’s in your blood and you’ll never be able to give it up. Besides, changing professions is harder than sticking with this one.

Now, my first targets for incentives are college students who, for some reason, still dream of a career in the newspaper industry. To them I offer the following IF they spend at least a semester as an intern with the Bladen Journal:

— No pay, but a free lunch at the local restaurant of your choice on your first day.

— Your own desk … with a phone and desk calendar.

— The chance to watch seasoned journalists at work up close.

— Finally, and most importantly, you will be given the chance to learn how to conduct an interview, fashion a story, plan a page design, snap a photograph and become adept at good customer service.

Incentives to junior high and high school journalist wannabes are more difficult to determine, simply because they aren’t yet drawn to the glitz and glamour of typing obituaries and writing about someone’s giant rutabaga. And since there’s no way I can spend $52 on a 9.2-pound chocolate bar every time a student intern walks through the door, I offer something more valuable — journalism lessons.

For them, class is now in session. Please take notes.

— The word stewardesses is the longest word typed with only the left hand (you can look that up). But NEVER use the word stewardesses in a story … they are flight attendants now.

— Shakespeare invented the words assassination and bump, in case you are ever asked (bonus literature lesson).

— The sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” uses every letter in the English language.

— The name of all the continents end with the same letter they start with (bonus geography lesson).

— The word lethological describes the state of not being able to remember the word you want — which comes in handy in a newspaper newsroom AND is, at this very moment, being looked up by Leslie Johnson in his new, handy-dandy thesaurus just like you could … if you had one. And as an intern, you WOULD have access to one.

— The word typewriter is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard. But try finding a trpewriter in a newspaper’s newsroom. You can’t!

— Leonardo de Vinci, who NEVER traveled on the Titanic, invented scissors — and Benjamin Franklin IS on the $100 bill but was never a president.

— The sentence “I am” is the shortest complete sentence in the English language — and has NO PLACE in anything you will write for the newspaper. Doubt that I’m being serious? I am.

— The longest word in the English language is 1,909 letters long and refers to a distinct part of DNA (bonus science lesson). Can you tell me what it is?

— No word in the English language rhymes with month or orange, so don’t even try.

— Finally, in the words of a highly respected fellow journalist from Indiana, “Journalism …. yeah, baby!”

And just so you know, the average candy bar contains eight insect legs, so you can imagine how many that 9.2-pound candy bar contains (bonus math lesson). As a responsible journalist, I’ll tell you — about 759.7 insect legs.


W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.
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