Don’t Do Journalism For The Money, My Grandfather Told Me. But Do It.

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In January 1984, my grandfather was in his final months, when I got offered a summer reporting internship at the Virginian Pilot in Norfolk Virginia. He could barely write, but managed to scratch out the following:

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This was interesting, because earlier he had encouraged me to pursue journalism in college, and newspapers were one of the unconditional loves of his life :

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Papa was a well educated lawyer who deeply respected anything to do with civics, community building and the democratic process… including newspapers. But he was also a first generation immigrant who knew that journalism wasn’t the most lucrative career, and wanted me to live the American dream. So he occasionally suggested I also consider professions like law or medicine.

I wonder what he’d think now looking at my career?

I did take that Virginian Pilot summer internship, and it was one of the best things I ever did.  It opened my eyes to the thrill and adventure of journalism… digging for facts, doing whatever it takes to find out the truth, facing demanding editors on deadline.  Taking initiative and following through. I was running on adrenaline the whole time.

This experience led directly to my entrepreneurial career in media and technology, which papa obviously couldn’t have predicted in his wildest imagination. Not to mention that the $235 a week after tax, or whatever it was, was actually a lot of money for a kid sharing a dumpy house with roommates in Virginia Beach ($572/week in today’s dollars). Best summer ever.

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One of my front page stories that summer. (“SEC says investors deceived”)

Today, I would tell any college kid today to go into journalism, even if you have to volunteer. Searching for the truth and hustling for scoops is one of the most satisfying and entrepreneurial things you can do in this world. It is its own reward, and can also lead you to many great places.

Thanks papa for having cared about me so much – it all worked out.

Here’s some of my clips from that summer:

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