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American Journalism Review
Journos Go Clubbin’  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   August/September 2003

Journos Go Clubbin’   

Young journalists establish an organization in which they can network and freely discuss business issues.

By Jill Rosen
Jill Rosen is AJR's assistant managing editor     

The invitation went a little something like this:

"To our young, talented journo friends.... Jayson Blair got you down? Listen up, we have a plan and we need your skills to make it work. Since the Blair affair, the industry has examined the role of young journalists in newsrooms. What has been missing from that conversation is us.... It's time to make some noise.

We're starting a listserv for journalists under 35 to link up.... We'd like you to join...and we hope you invite your journo buds as well."

If your idea of making some noise is revving the engine on the family van, or if you don't have "journo buds," then this probably isn't the group for you. But if you're 23 and in your first year of reporting for the Denver Post like Chris Frates, this might be what you've been waiting for.

"No matter how well you've done, or how far you've come, there are things you don't know just because of your age," says Frates, who graduated last year from the University of Maryland. "Being young is an asset and it's a liability--we want to minimize the liability and increase the chances of success."

The idea to bring together young journalists came to Frates and a few buddies while having some burritos with a side of angst recently. The media world was in a tizzy about Jayson Blair, at 27 the nation's most infamous younger reporter thanks to his path of plagiarism and fabrication at the New York Times, and because of this, Frates and the others were feeling that youth was seeming less like a sheen and more of a taint. They winced to read an Editor & Publisher column that compared green writers to "crack cocaine." (In his own piece for the Poynter Institute's Web site, Frates retorted: "Why do older people always compare anything addictive to crack cocaine?...crack is so 1980s.)

They decided that newer reporters needed not only a sounding board for such worries, but a place to learn and network. So Frates and two friends (Elizabeth Aguilera, also at the Post, and the New York Times' Jennifer Medina--the Washington Post's Matthew C. Sheehan got on board a bit later) sent a letter to about 100 friends and colleagues to gauge interest in such a cause. In about a month, nearly 600 people had signed up for the officially unnamed group's listserv. Plans are in the works for a Web site and possibly even a convention. (E-mail to join the listserv.)

Frates says the goal is to connect the freshest of journalists with more seasoned veterans who can share advice and experience. "We're asking how do we take this raw talent that abounds in our industry and make it into something that helps power good journalism," Frates explains. "Here are people who want to learn--tell us what you know."



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