This continues a series on professional networking.
I don’t think I ever advertised my services as a journalism trainer. But my professional network brings business to me again and again.
I won’t try the same approach here as I used yesterday in explaining the value of my network in connecting me with new jobs, whether I was looking or not. I’ve had hundreds of training and consulting jobs since I decided to launch a side business of newsroom training in 1997, so I won’t detail the network role in all of them, as I did with full-time jobs. Instead, I’ll detail a few of the networking successes that have delivered multiple jobs.
Except for last year, when treatment for lymphoma took me off the road, I’ve made a five-figure second income most years since 2003 or so. I doubt if there was a single year when most of the gigs and most of the income didn’t come at least in part from network connections.
Though I really started in training as a continuing venture in 1997, my first gig was 12 years earlier at the St. Joseph News-Press and Gazette in Missouri. How that came about illustrated the importance of networking in such a pursuit: The St. Joe managing editor and Arnold Garson, my managing editor at the Des Moines Register, were at a meeting of the Associated Press Managing Editors together. The St. Joe editor mentioned to Arnie that he was interested in getting some newsroom training. Arnie thought I’d be good at that, so he dropped my name. I did well, and maintained the interest, though career opportunities took me in different directions for a while.
As my training career really took off in the early 2000s, networking provided opportunities time after time. Literally hundreds of opportunities came my way through my network. Here are how some of the major networking connections in my training career helped me:
Newsroom trainers network
When I started training seriously in 1997, a network of newsroom trainers already existed. While the group never formally organized, it had an annual conference and an email list-serv. I attended the conferences annually for about seven years, starting in 2001, first at the Freedom Forum and later at the Poynter Institute.
The Newstrain list-serv, which I joined in 1998, was a robust email discussion where trainers asked questions and shared advice and experiences. If people asked a question that I could answer, I took a few minutes to share my advice. At that point, my network was mostly from my editing and reporting career, so I might not have personally known any of the trainers on the list-serv at that point. But I developed connections through conversational emails.
Someone on the list-serv asked for help with time management. I had developed workshops and online handouts (alas, one of them is no longer online) about writing clearly on deadline, juggling daily news with enterprise and editing effectively in short conversations (I called it the “One-Minute Editor“). I shared the links to my handouts, and that editor thanked me politely (I don’t know whether she used them or not). But another editor on the list, Leslie Ansley of the Raleigh News & Observer, asked me if I could lead some workshops for her newsroom. That was my first gig for a metro newsroom where I wasn’t already working.
Counting quickly off the top of my head, I can think of more than 30 paying newsroom visits that came, at least in part, through the newsroom trainers network.
Since Poynter hosted most of the training conferences I attended, it’s hard to separate the networking help Poynter provided from the boost of the trainers network. Including National Writers Workshops and Poynter seminars where I’ve been a visiting faculty member or a participant, plus a Poynter road show in Washington, I’ve attended more than a dozen Poynter events in addition to the training conferences. Sometimes I piggybacked workshops in the area onto a trip to speak at a National Writers Workshop. Other times people I met at a Poynter event later invited me to speak to their organization or newsroom.
American Press Institute
I mentioned yesterday how my network helped me get hired to the API staff. But connections I made at API seminars before I joined the staff resulted in some training work for me. And the connections I made while on the staff from 2005 to 2008 continue to pay off.
Religion Newswriters Association
I encourage journalists to belong to organizations that reflect their specialties, such as the Society for News Design, American Copy Editors Society, Investigative Reporters and Editors or one of the many beat-focused or ethnic journalism organizations.
When I was a religion reporter from 1998 to 2000, I joined the Religion Newswriters Association. Like other such organizations, RNA provided training and mentoring for new religion reporters. That was helpful to me as a new religion reporter, and I attended both national conferences while I was on the beat (and still very early in my training career). It would have been an especially valuable networking tool if I had stayed on the beat. But it was helpful even when I moved on.
I had left the religion beat in 2005 and 2006, but RNA hired me to lead pre-conference writing workshops.
Canadian conferences and seminars
I’ve spoken at more than 40 conferences, seminars, newsrooms and universities across Canada, and I’m certain they all came from network connections. My first Canadian gig, for the Cariboo Press in Williams Lake, B.C., in 2002, came because my former Des Moines Register colleague, Ken Fuson (a much better known writer than I was) couldn’t make the conference but suggested me instead.
The Williams Lake event was the first of four conferences in British Columbia I led in consecutive years for the parent company, Black Press.
At that first conference, Nick Russell was one of the other speakers, and we enjoyed each other’s sessions, as well as nice dinner conversations. Nick mentioned me to Bryan Cantley of the Canadian Newspaper Association. Bryan also planned training events for the Canadian Association of Newspaper Editors and the Ryerson Journalism Alumni Association. Bryan, who became one of my best friends in journalism, invited me to speak at two CNA events, five CANE conferences and five Wordstock writing conferences presented by RJAA. And he made connections for me to newsrooms in Hamilton, Kitchener, Halifax, Toronto and Calgary (and perhaps more that I’m forgetting), so I often piggybacked a newsroom visit with a conference.
With those conferences and others, my Canadian connections continued to grow. I met Marissa Nelson at the Poynter conference for newsroom trainers, and she helped arrange some training in Vancouver and Toronto for the digital and music staffs of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Mary McGuire of Carleton University in Ottawa and I connected first on social media. And she heard from someone about some workshops I did in Edmonton, so she invited me to speak at Carleton. Then she made connections with the Ottawa Citizen and Canwest News Service, which was based in Ottawa, and I ended up doing workshops three days in a row in that beautiful city.
Altogether, I’ve spoken at more than 40 events in Canada, and I’m certain that network connections contributed to every one of them.
It starts with quality
As I’ve noted throughout this series, networking only works if people respect your work. If I had done a lousy job in those workshops for the Cariboo Press, Nick never would have recommended me to Bryan and I never would have gotten all those gigs that resulted from Bryan’s connections. If I hadn’t done a good job in my presentations at the newsroom trainers conferences, I wouldn’t have received invitations from colleagues to train in their newsrooms. If I hadn’t nailed the workshops I did as a guest discussion leader for API, I never would have been invited to join the staff or do workshops for the home newsrooms of API seminar participants. And so on.
Also in this series
Want to write a guest post?
You may have some experience in networking that would add to this series. If you’d like to write a guest post, please email me at stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com.
Interested in a networking workshop?
The posts in this series can be developed into a workshop or series of workshops for you journalism organization or university. If you’re interested in discussing or scheduling a workshop, please email me at stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com.