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Disheartening Words of Encouragement

Reflecting on his career and life’s work Norman Pearlstine, former Editor in Chief of Time Inc., discussed the hardships of journalism with students this morning at NYU.

Now retired Pearlstine, 75, shuffled his fingers this morning when presenting his life story as a journalist to a little more than 30 pairs of reporters-in-the-making eyes Fidgeting nervously at first, the former editor grew comfortable in his chair as his story picked up and students eagerly wrote down details.

“You have a better shot to land a job out of school than experienced people keeping their job,” he reassured students.

His advice: “Figuring out ways to specialize is helpful,” he said, while recounting how the Wall Street Journal sent him to cover Japan in 1972 without prior language training.

Discussing the versatility of the industry, Pearlstine said many of the skill can be applied in other areas of the industry. Personalization is key to nailing stories and attracting work, he said. Having an “artisanal beat,” suggested Prof. Adam Penenberg, who conducted the interview.

Pearlstine does not believe luck can be manufactured, but thinks everybody gets lucky in a funny way, “It’s what you do with it and if you can capitalize on it,” that gives an individual an advance on the field.

via Vanity Fair

Cameron Fachman, a sophomore, brought a quote from Pearlstine from 2015, where he expressed prosperous thoughts about print media. In the last two years, Pearlstine’s optimistic predictions have been proven wrong. “I had not appreciated how much mobile [format] had changed the game,” he said.

With the “contraction of traditional jobs,” Pearlstine encouraged students to understand the relationship between video and print. Now that he’s working as a consultant for smaller, new media companies, he mentioned Axios, a news and information website that he sometimes reads. The site does “such a great job of summarizing” news that he feels there’s “less need to read the [Washington] Post or the New York Times.”

Having more than 40 years of experience in the field, Pearlstine warned students about the usage of anonymous sources. He suggested students to “sit down with your sources and be honest,” when, as reporters, they want to use the information obtained. Referencing Judith Miller’s case in 2005, Pearlstine said choosing anonymity when attributing a source could only be used when “a source’s life or livelihood is at risk” or a journalist is willing to go to prison in the name of the public interest.

With the current administration, Pearlstine feels there is a “fair amount of latitude for reporters to keep sources confidential,” but strongly opts to avoid anonymity. However, as an experienced editor, Pearlstine said it is important to be “loyal to your reporters, assuming you [editor] trust the story.”

#students #NewYorkCity #classproject #journalism

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