A job I’m not applying for

A Facebook Friend pointed out that the owner of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, Lee Enterprises, is looking for …

Reporter – State Government

News & Editorial  Madison, Wisconsin  Madison, Wisconsin

Position at Wisconsin State Journal

The Wisconsin State Journal, south-central Wisconsin’s leading news source, is seeking a smart and aggressive reporter to join its state government reporting team.

This is both the opportunity you’ve been looking for and the hardest job you’ll ever love. As one of two Capitol reporters, you’ll be expected to produce high-impact enterprise and watchdog stories amid the daily demands of reporting from a supercharged partisan environment. Coverage areas include all three branches of state government, politics and elections in a vibrant and constantly evolving political culture that is often in the national spotlight.

Experience in accountability reporting, aggressive use of public records laws, facility with data and an ability to develop sources and establish trust and credibility on both sides of the aisle is required. This position also demands an ability to report in real time for our online platforms and via social media, and an aptitude or desire to shoot video. At least five years of daily newspaper reporting experience is preferred. Past political coverage is desired, but a can-do attitude and demonstrated work ethic matter more.

To be considered for the position applicants must apply online at www.Madison.com/workhere by June 10, 2019. Please include a cover letter and five samples of your work or links to five recent stories.

Capital Newspapers offers:

  • Competitive compensation
  • Great benefits package including medical, dental, vision, and life, insurances; matching 401k plan; paid maternity and paternity leaves; and regular paid time off
  • Culture of teamwork, professional work environment, and a focus on growth opportunities
  • Free print subscription to the Wisconsin State Journal and free digital subscription to Madison.com for all employees

Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer:
The Capital Newspapers organization is an affirmative action employer. We are committed to maintaining a workforce that accurately reflects our audience and expands our voice.

Pre-employment background and drug screenings apply.

Once upon a time — say, 20 to 25 years ago — I would have jumped at this. Not anymore, and for several reasons, the least of which is that according to their requirements I’m not qualified, since my 7.5 months of (very strange) experience at a daily newspaper is short of their five years requirement. The idea that weekly reporters are unfamiliar with deadlines is ridiculous. I have written more stories the day of production at the various places I’ve worked because the news came up just that day. Anyone who has done web content that has to be done right now is not unfamiliar with daily deadlines. I’m probably more qualified than some daily reporters on that point.

The State Journal is, remember, the newspaper I started reading, according to my parents, when I was 2 years old. (I bet nobody on the WSJ staff can say that.) I’ve been in the State Journal a few times, including two city spelling bee wins and therefore two state spelling bee appearances.

Wisconsin State Journal, May 1, 1977. That’s the look on my face when a few wild guesses got me a city spelling bee title.

Eight years later I woke up one August Sunday morning and grabbed the State Journal to find out, to my surprise, I was pictured on the front page, because I sat next to a fellow UW Band member who had a Packers helmet-shaped umbrella, and the band had played at the previous day’s Packer preseason game. (A 33–0 loss to Washington, which was on its way to winning that season’s Super Bowl.)

Washington 33, Packers 0, which explains my disgusted look below the helmet umbrella. Note that this 1987 photo was taken by the same photographer who took my photo in 1977.

I also contributed to the State Journal’s state basketball tournament 100th-anniversary special section, giving an abridged version of my high school’s 1982 state champion team.

I am well qualified other than that five-year thing. I majored in journalism and political science, I’ve interviewed every governor since Tony Earl and more state legislators than I can count. I can count as one of my career highlights telling a Catholic bishop that he can’t throw out a reporter in a public building. (Similar to what I told a school board president less than a year into this silly line of work.) And to fit in this 21st-century media age of ours, I can be a political pundit, on radio and TV, literally worldwide.

Wisconsin is a fascinating state politically speaking, though less so than it used to be, given that both parties have purged themselves of their more moderate elements. (Time was when the GOP had remnants of the old Progressive Party as late as the 1980s, and I recall a state representative, a Democrat, who Republicans told me was more conservative than some Republicans.) This is, after all, the same state that brought the nation Fighting Bob La Follette and Joe McCarthy. (Who defeated Fighting Bob’s son in a U.S. Senate GOP primary.)

So why am I not applying? First, with 31 years of doing this (including this blog and its predecessor opinion blog), I am now more used to telling people what to do than being told what to do. (Though at present I don’t really have anyone to tell what to do in the day job.) I tell people I hate politicians, including the ones I vote for. “Hate” is sometimes a strong word, but I certainly assume they’re all in it for their own political power and are therefore not averse to not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. (As for their sycophants and other supporters, I believe you are what you believe in.)

The State Journal has been, based on the reports of others, bled considerably by its owner because of its owner’s poor newspaper purchase decisions. Daily newspapers are as a whole doing worse than weeklies, comparatively speaking.

I am also really, really tired of the political bullshit, basically at every level of government. (A political reporter who hates politics? A government reporter who increasingly hates government?) I would say that Republicans are often wrong, but Democrats are nearly always wrong, and that “wrong” thing applies to nonpartisan politicians too. Beyond party and ideology, political reporters spend far too much time covering the horse race and stories of zero importance to real people (which I tried to point out, not always successfully, in my radio pundit days), and infinitely too much time copying and pasting the news releases that come into their mailboxes from politicians, would-be politicians and their supporters and opponents, and too little time answering the question that has been posted on top of my monitor for more than two decades: What does this story mean to the reader? That is particularly an important question to answer for political crap.

If the State Journal wanted some street cred with the political right of Wisconsin (who are more likely newspaper readers and subscribers than those on the left side), they would hire someone like me, but they won’t. Those who know my conservatarian bent who lack that in Madison would probably refuse to talk to me or call me rude names. (Of course, I could write a story about that.) It would be fun to, as I’ve been known to do at political meetings, sit in the audience at a meeting and glower at the participants. I bet Tony Evers would really, really love me.

And yet, the odious phrase “the personal is political” should be erased from our collective consciousness because it should not apply. The State Journal is looking for a reporter and not a columnist to tell the Madison lefties (who are presumably their readers) what a bunch of self-centered idiots they are. (Arguably repeatedly telling your readership they’re wrong is a subpar way to boost your business, particularly in this era in which the only acceptable views are views that agree with yours.) I believe that neither Wisconsin nor Madison is the center of the universe, and while visiting my hometown is sometimes fun, the vast majority of Madison’s people are not people I would choose to associate with, let alone have as neighbors. (As if anyone can afford Madison house prices.) I also suspect I’d have to give up my side sports broadcasting thing, which is more fun than my day job.

Being hated by various State Capitol types would be fun, or would have been fun, but that was then, and I prefer living with real people, not in the People’s Republic of Madison.


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