Accomplished Editor Comes to Oakland University
by Matthew E. Semrau
ROCHESTER, Mich. — Walter T. Middlebrook, assistant managing editor as well as director of recruiting and community affairs at The Detroit News, guest lectured Wednesday for a free event in the Oakland Center, entitled “Adapting to New Age Journalism.” Middlebrook spoke of how to confront challenges faced by journalists today, as well as offered nuggets on how new journalists can get recognized and land jobs.
Middlebrook has an extensive career in journalism reaching back to 1978 where he worked as a staff writer for the Minneapolis Star (now, Star Tribune.) He has worked as an editor for such prestigious publications as USA Today, Tribune, Newsday, and The New York Times.
“If you’re a senior in the journalism program and you haven’t had an internship yet, do it. If you don’t have an internship under your belt they are going to put you at the bottom of the list,” he warned speaking of potential employers. “If you get the opportunity to do an internship, jump on it.”
“Don’t get locked up in the technical skills. You need to be able to adapt. You need to be able to transfer your skills from one technology to another. The platforms are changing, but the skill sets are the same.”
Middlebrook urged the audience, “Learn to write well. If you can learn to write well, you can literally do anything.”
Those studying journalism and developing those skills aren’t constrained to jobs in traditional journalism, or even the field of journals. “We can be investigators. We can be politicians. We can literally be anything.”
“The things we’re seeing today are just new names for things we’ve always done. Back in the day, there use to be a ticker tape. The first journalist who could get their story on the ticker got paid. Twitter is the ticker tape of today. Journalist are rushing to their story out first. It isn’t changing that much. Patch.com is the town cryer. It’s the same idea. History repeats itself.”
In recent years, legacy news sources such as traditional newspapers have suffered due to the changing landscape. Some observers have suggested that the end of journalism has come, being replaced instead by blogs and the Internet. Middlebrook disagrees, “We will survive.”
Among Middlebrook’s advice, he recommended keeping your resume to one page if at all possible, and never more than two. “I’ve been working for 30 years, and I can still keep my resume to one page.”
He also urged job seekers to be purposeful in their cover letters, “Don’t summarize your resume. Tell a story. Tell them what moves you. What you’re passionate about.” He also warned against noting on your resume ‘references available upon request.’ “List references that know you. If you have mentors, list them. Having good mentors as references can make all the difference.”
In interviews, Middlebrook suggests common sense people skills, “Make natural eye contact. Give a firm handshake. Even still today there are people who won’t hire you just based on your handshake.” Taking the initiative is also important, “Don’t wait for them to speak, tell them who you are and what you’re excited about. Tell them what you’re passionate about.”
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News Value: Middlebrook is an accomplished, local editor whose opinion matters to journalism majors. Since he works for one of the top newspapers in the area, his presence at Oakland University is notable.
Audience: Students at Oakland University in the journalism program or considering it.
Middlebrook’s LinkedIn page was useful for a detailed career history.
I used Wikipedia to determine whether the Minneapolis Star was under the current name. Since it was a job listed back in the 70s, I imagined the potential for it’s name changing was high. I wanted to make sure it was accurate.
I of course utilized my notes from the lecture.