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Winston Wood

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Winston Wood
September 2009

      To mark my birthday every year -- or better yet, to demonstrate that I still have some kick yet before the Grim Reaper gets me -- I try to climb the highest mountain in a given state. I've done all the good ones in the East now (and won't bother with the small stuff in Florida, Rhode Island, etc. until I'm in a walker), and now I'm working my way around the great open spaces out West.Winston Wood and Mike McClelland

      Subconsciously, it probably all goes back to standing on the upper railing of the bridge at Trenton Falls.

____________________________________________________Fishbowl - DC

WSJ Bids Farewell To Rogers, Fialka, Wood and Schmind
From an internal WSJ memo, obtained by FishbowlDC:

Winston Wood: Winston joined the WSJ from our cousins at Ottaway Newspapers, when the Ottaway bureau here closed, and he brought with him both extensive knowledge of Washington, and the kind of sparkling wit and wisdom that made him a center of sanity when things got insane around him. Winston has what you want in a good editor: a broad range of knowledge and experience in all manner of things Washington, meaning he was rarely if ever stumped by a story, no matter how arcane the topic. He moved deftly from congressional stories to economic ones to national-security pieces, and then back again, often in the same night.

      For years Winston has been the Wall Street Journal's Washington bureau on Sundays. Monday papers wouldn't have existed without him, it seemed. He handled the tricky business of crafting WSJ stories for a Monday paper deftly and cleverly, and our readers have been the beneficiaries. Winston’s departure marks the end of a distinguished, 24-year career within the Dow Jones family.


Summit of Mnt. St. Helens
Sliding down Mt. St. Helens
2011 Independence Day atop glorious Mt. St. Helens in Washington state. (I'm second from the right. And yes, it's the volcano.) It was a hard, hard slog in wet snow up the 8,300 foot peak... ...but the trip down was much faster as we could slide most of the way on our butts. Act my age? Never!


Winston Wood

From: Columbia Journalism Review

"News remains vital, but there’s better money in panhandling"
By Winston Wood

      For several years as an editor at The Wall Street Journal I was invited by my college alumni association to speak about journalism to undergrads at the group’s annual Career Night. This involved a panel discussion with three or four others in the field talking about what we did, how we did it and—of primary interest to the audience—how we got our first jobs.

      My regular panel mates worked at CBS News, The New Yorker, and the AP, and they’d talk about great stories they’d covered and great places they’d been on the company dime. When it was my turn, I felt it was important to paint a more realistic picture for people just starting in the business, so my advice was that they could learn everything they needed to know about my field—newspapers—by reading Sherlock Holmes.

      In The Man With the Twisted Lip, the great detective solves the case of a guy who has “disappeared” in London. Neville St. Clair was a reporter who disguised himself as a disfigured beggar to research a story on life in the streets. He set up shop near the Bank of England, capered and quoted Shakespeare, and he quickly found he could make far more money panhandling than as a journalist. So without telling his wife, he quit the paper and became a beggar full time, moving his family to the suburbs and commuting to “business interests” in the city.

      On hearing this and its relation to the laughable pay and benefits at the small papers where they’d likely land their first jobs, most of the kids hustled down the hall to workshops on med school and investment banking.

      But not everyone. College grads still flock into journalism—or at least until very recently they did—ambitious, well-educated, and hopeful that despite the career carnage all around them they’ll be the exception to the rule. They’ll wrangle internships at big papers and get hired by small ones, where they’ll get direction but little training at a bit over minimum wage when calculated by the hours they’re expected to work, supplying their own cars and, at many papers out in flyover country, even their own cameras. Some will make it, some won’t, and the beat goes on.

      Despite this kind of dedication—or stupidity—by the worker bees, many publishers these days find they still can’t make a buck. Gradually, this is an industry that has collapsed into itself. Long enjoying monopoly markets, low levels of debt, high profit margins, and an apparently bottomless labor pool, most publishers were loath to give up a good thing, and consequently failed to recognize the forces for change building around them. When they did, they often reacted with half measures or they over-reacted, lurching from fad to fad hoping for salvation: hyperlocal coverage, “civic journalism,” ads on the front page, “sponsored” news pages on issues of interest to local advertisers, joint ventures with local broadcast outlets, blogs, blogs on blogs, the list goes on. Trendiness, thy name is Gannett.

      Amid all the angst and hand wringing, though, I keep reminding myself it’s the business model that’s failed, not the journalism. In a fully wired, 24/7 world, news has never been more available and probably has never been more important than now. The audience—readers, listeners, people—still look for and respond to information on developments that affect them, their families, or their communities. And the press’s watchdog role is still vital to the workings of government and democracy. Surrounded by a free press, Americans can be unmindful or even neglectful of it. But those who doubt its importance need only look to Tibet, Cuba, or Zimbabwe.

      After thirty-three years in newspapers, I bailed out in January. I’d had a good run, reporting events as varied as the 1981 air traffic controllers strike, mine fires in Pennsylvania, and the handover of the Panama Canal. As an editor, I had a front row seat on three wars, the impeachment of a president, and the 9/11 terror attacks. The coming of Rupert Murdoch was just too much, however, and I left the Journal for a policy post at the International Broadcasting Bureau, the agency that oversees the Voice of America, Radio Marti, and other government broadcasters. Yes, there is life after newspapers.

      Examples die hard, though. My daughter is studying photography in college and hopes to land a job as a shooter on at least a medium-sized paper when she graduates. She’s pretty good, too, and just might do it. But I warned her not to make a career of it. That’s the advice I’d offer others as well. If you’re interested in journalism, even now, give it a shot. It’s a great way to learn about the world, develop communication and analytical skills, and provide a public service. But over the long haul, there’s more stability and better money to be made panhandling.

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