I can give advice all day. In fact, SUNY Oswego pays me to. Here are a few of my favorites:
• Write every chance you get. The way you become a better writer is to write often.
• Learn to report. Whether you are covering a beat, writing longform or a listicle, reporting makes your work better.
• Find a mentor - my career wouldn't have been half as good without Mike Vaccaro and Adrian Wojnarowski giving me guidance.
• Learn to do a lot of things. Know how to do video and audio. Take photographs. Learn how to produce and host a podcast. Know how to create data visualizations. And for the love of God, learn Excel.
• Be insatiably curious. About your beat. About your conference. About your community. About history. About new technology and platforms. Be the person who's always learning new things.
• Know that you can do the best you can, produce great work, and you still may lose your job or not move up the career ladder due to forces out of your control.
• Live by the "Oh Cool!" test. If something in your reporting makes you say "Oh Cool!" it had better be in your story. It should probably be your lede. Because if you think something is cool, there's a good chance I'm going to think it's cool too.
• Read your eyes out. Haunt libraries. Fill up Instapaper or Pocket with great articles. Study what strikes a chord with you.
• There's no shame in leaving the business. After one year or after 20 years. If it's not for you anymore, or if you find something you love more, chase that.
• Always bring a pencil. There's a good chance it will rain. Or your batteries will die. Or you won't have enough memory on your device. A pencil will aways work.
• Be so good they can't ignore you. Steve Martin's a smart guy.
Not surprisingly, a lot of the snark on Twitter was about how young journalists should not get into the profession. That was the crux of the Salmon piece (which is very good). So one piece of advice I have addresses the future:
• "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
Yep. The Lorax.
The students and young journalists were talking to are the ones who are going to create the future of journalism. It's wrong if we short-sell them on the challengers journalism faces. But if we look at the career just as a way to make money rather than a kind of calling, if we forget that the students and young journalists will create a journalism world we won't recognize, one that will fit their world and their technology, than we're dooming them to a self-fulfilling prophesy of a doomed profession.
If the students and young journalists care a whole awful lot, they will create the journalism the world needs - both as a business and as the news.