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Jan. 4, 2012, 11:30 a.m.

Come work for Nieman Lab

We have an opening for a staff writer in our Cambridge newsroom.

We’re looking for someone to join us in our cozy little Harvard newsroom. Specifically, we have an opening for a staff writer here at the Nieman Journalism Lab. You can see the job posting here.

If you read us regularly, you know the kind of work we do — we look for and write about innovation in news. That can mean innovation at traditional news organizations; that can mean innovation at online startups; that can mean innovation at technology companies that impact how the news gets reported, distributed, and consumed. We cast a wide net; fundamentally, we’re interested in how useful information gets discovered and shared.

A couple years ago, when we had a previous opening, I summed up our ideal candidate this way:

First and foremost, you need to be an excellent reporter: digging up stories, working beats, tracking down journalistic innovation, figuring out what’s new and important in the future of news. You know how to spot a hot one and how to turn it into a story. You ask the right people the right questions. And you’re already dedicated to staying on top of the latest goings-on in the space, through rigorous reading and social media. (You probably spend a not-insignificant chunk of time in Google Reader and/or on Twitter each day, and you like it.)

Second, you’ve got to be an excellent writer. Writing stories for the Lab isn’t exactly the same as writing news stories for a traditional outlet — but it also isn’t the same as writing a blog with your own personality high-beams on. The voice and tone we’ve developed in our 19 [now 37] months of existence is important to us, and you’ll need to be able to write clean copy that both grabs the audience and respects its time.

Third, you have to be a nerd. I don’t mean you have to be a coder (although, hey, great if you are) or a multiplatform, multimedia wiz (although, hey, etc.). I do mean that you’re the kind of person who geeks out about the things we write about here. You’re engaged with the theory and the practice of online journalism. You’ve read some Shirky, some Rosen, maybe some Schudson — for fun. Maybe you can drop a well-timed Habermas reference into dinner conversation. (Okay, I’m going too far here: thoughts on Habermas a plus, but not required.) You have a favorite journalism startup. You’re not a curmudgeon, but you understand their point of view. You don’t just know about MinnPost, ProPublica, Talking Points Memo, EveryBlock, or Spot.us — you’ve got thoughts about them. If asked, you could recite three arguments for and against paywalls.

In other words, you care about all this stuff — it matters to you, and it occupies your thoughts in ways that go beyond just wanting a job.

That’s the kind of person we want around here. If you’ve got those three qualities, just about anything else is negotiable; anyone from a veteran reporter with decades of experience to some punk 22-year-old could be right for the job.

All that still holds true.

This is a great job, if I do say so myself. And — while I hesitate to mention it because I selfishly prefer it when my people aren’t lured away — it puts your work in front of some of the most influential people in journalism today. The last four people who’ve left our little newsroom have all departed for great positions at fine news organizations: outreach/social media editor at The Wall Street Journal, online managing editor at O’Reilly, deputy Congress editor at Politico, and staff writer at The Atlantic.

(This position is to replace Megan Garber, who’s Atlantic-bound. If you’re interested in applying, I’d suggest checking out her past Lab articles to see some of the kinds of work we like.)

If you have any questions about the position, feel free to email me — but don’t send me your resume, clips, or statements of how awesome you are. To actually apply for the job, you need to go to the actual job posting and apply from there. I’d strongly suggest doing so in the next week or so (say, by Jan. 11) — we’re looking to move pretty quickly, and the posting will disappear from the Harvard HR site not too long after that.

One final note, because there’s one line in the posting I always have to explain when we have an opening. It’s the one that says “Note: This is a term appointment ending June 30, 2012, with the possibility of renewal based on funding and department priorities.”

I don’t want people to be scared off by the idea that this is a temporary position — it’s not. Many (nearly all, I believe) Harvard jobs of this type are officially run as a series of one-year term appointments. In the three years since the Lab launched, every full-time position we’ve had has been posted under these terms, and every one of them has been renewed every year. If we’re happy with the work being done (and barring any surprise funding issues), our hope/expectation is that this person would stay well beyond that one year.

Happy to answer questions about it, but to sum up: Don’t hesitate to apply because you think this is a temp job for six months.

Joshua Benton is the senior writer and former director of Nieman Lab. You can reach him via email (joshua_benton@harvard.edu) or Twitter DM (@jbenton).
POSTED     Jan. 4, 2012, 11:30 a.m.
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