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Sarasota Thursday, Mar. 31, 2011 9 years ago

MY VIEW: Needed: Barbarian with a pen

by: Rod Thomson

There was an incredibly revealing want ad for a Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigative reporter posted March 14 on journalism listserv.

Most newsrooms are loath to admit they have any kind of bias.

That is why it is so refreshing to have a job posting sent to me from another journalist, a job-posting that has gone viral on the internet — at least among journalists.

The posting is from Matthew Doig, who is a member of the Herald-Tribune’s investigative-reporting team. The posting is cleverly written, even tongue-in-cheek entertaining. But what it conveys is most important. An average reader of this newspaper might consider it shocking.

It clearly rules out most civilized people.

In a nutshell, they’re looking for what an average person not skewed by journalistic circles might call a jerk, one who revels in challenging authority like your basic 16-year-old.

Look who loves the job post. Mother Jones, a far-left magazine, considers it the best job post ever written. More telling, looking at the journalism blogs, journalists everywhere love it.

Of course, this was not supposed to be public. This was just supposed to be for journalist wonks. You’re not really supposed to know that key reporters at your local newspaper think this way — the ones doing those big blow-outs on the Sunday front page that take up so much ink and win all those awards.

Truth is, reporters are largely interested in writing for themselves, earning awards for themselves. There is less and less reporting at the mainstream outlets such as the Herald-Tribune that is devoted to sound beat coverage of local governments. Those don’t win awards. Gotcha journalism does.

Read it for yourself and decide. Just remember the type of reporter they hire when you read the next “expose.”

Rod Thomson is editorial pages editor of the Observers and can be reached at [email protected].

Job posting: ‘Our kind of sicko’
“We want to add some talent to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigative team. Every serious candidate should have a proven track record of conceiving, reporting and writing stellar investigative pieces that provoke change. However, our ideal candidate has also cursed out an editor, had spokespeople hang up on them in anger and threatened to resign at least once because some fool wanted to screw around with their perfect lede.

“We do a mix of quick-hit investigative work when events call for it and mini-projects that might run for a few days. But every year we like to put together a project way too ambitious for a paper our size because we dream that one day Walt Bogdanich will have to say: “I can’t believe the Sarasota Whatever-Tribune cost me my 20th Pulitzer.” As many of you already know, those kinds of projects can be hellish, soul-sucking, doubt-inducing affairs. But if you’re the type of sicko who likes holing up in a tiny, closed office with reporters of questionable hygiene to build databases from scratch by hand, entering thousands of pages of documents to take on powerful people and institutions that wish you were dead, all for the glorious reward of having readers pick up the paper and glance at your potential prize-winning epic as they flip their way to the Jumble… well, if that sounds like journalism Heaven, then you’re our kind of sicko.

“For those unaware of Florida’s reputation, it’s arguably the best news state in the country and not just because of the great public records laws. We have all kinds of corruption, violence and scumbaggery. The 9/11 terrorists trained here. Bush read My Pet Goat here. Our elections are colossal clusterf***s. Our new governor once ran a healthcare company that got hit with a record fine because of rampant Medicare fraud. We have hurricanes, wildfires, tar balls, bedbugs, diseased citrus trees and an entire town overrun by giant roaches (only one of those things is made up). And we have Disney World and beaches, so bring the whole family.

“Send questions, or a resume/cover letter/links to clips to my email address below. If you already have your dream job, please pass this along to someone whose skills you covet. Thanks.”

Matthew Doig
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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