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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Want to be a journalist? Rejection is good for the soul (and other advice from a media veteran)

Two minutes after I published a post today on Neil Gaiman's inspirational commencement address at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, I was alerted by Commitscion Neelima Bhamidipati (Class of 2012), via Twitter, to another uplifting commencement speech. Veteran CNN-IBN anchor Suhasini Haidar, who spoke to graduating students of WMA (World Media Academy) earlier this month, has posted her speech on her blog.


Haidar told the students she was rejected seven times when she applied for a job as a television journalist. Then, while explaining how rejection can be a boost for aspiring journalists, she listed her five wishes for young people seeking a career in journalism:

I am going to hope for you that each of you gets rejected for a job in exactly the same way because if you don’t understand what your passion is, it helps to have an interviewer that does. Because in the profession you have chosen, there will be many reasons to quit, and only one reason to stay — and that is the passion to tell a story.

1. I wish for you a really mean boss, one who makes you cry. Let’s be honest. This is a tough business, one where you have to push and bully your way to a story, you need to develop a thick skin early on.

2. I wish for you many, many days spent in the heat. So much of our job requires you to stand on someone else’s footpath, waiting for the person who lives inside to come out or go in; it’s a great thing to get used to.

3. I wish for you many unwell colleagues. That does sound horrid, but honestly, it’s how I got most of my early breaks. You get sent on an assignment only because someone else is indisposed.

4. I wish for you assignments in places where telephones and computers don’t work, because the joy of heading out to a remote area, where you work on one story for three days without having to report back, no hour-on-hour deadline pressure is something you must do.

5. I wish for you interviews with many eccentric quirky people… because those are the ones who will give you the story.

Read Suhasini Haidar's commencement address in its entirety on her blog: "Dear journalism students, I wish you many job rejections".

UPDATE (June 16, 2014): Earlier this month, Suhasini Haidar delivered the convocation address at the 9.9 School of Communication, where she asserted that good journalism can change you. Read the address in its entirety here.