Job Title: Writer/Media Relations Coordinator
Type of Company: I work for a university school of Public Health.
Education: BA, English, Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
Previous Experience: I was a newspaper reporter in Connecticut for 25 years, the last fifteen writing for The Hartford Courant. I took a buyout from The Courant last July and got a job at a college in Boston, writing for academic publications.
Job Tasks: I am a writer and media relations manager for a university's School of Public Health. The major part of my job is writing stories about the school's research, teaching, and other faculty news for the university's various web-based publications. I also field inquiries from local and national media who are looking for faculty members to comment on issues of interest in public health, and I promote the work of the school to the media. It's a job that requires both writing skills and the ability to identify and communicate issues of news value to the media.
On a typical day, I am usually working on a story for our websites, while at the same time fielding media inquiries about issues ranging from swine flu to anti-smoking efforts. To me, a side benefit of the job is that I get a 'free' education about public health issues by being able to talk to faculty members about their research and communicate their findings to the public at large, through my own stories and through the mainstream media. It's not unlike my work as a newspaper reporter, although the purpose (promoting the work of the School of Public Health) is different from the "purpose" of reporting.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is that I'm making a living writing, which is what I enjoy. I also am getting educated in all kinds of health issues -- topics I otherwise would not know much about. The difficult part is that, compared to newspapers, academia is plodding, slow-moving and bureaucratic: a pace that takes some getting used to.
Job Tips: For people who are interested in writing, a public-relations job in academia is a good option, if you are looking for a job with minimal stress, steady hours and relatively good pay (for writers). I took an uncommon route to academia, via a long career in the newspaper business, but I see merits to doing it the other way around: getting writing and media-relations experience by working for a college or university, then branching out into mainstream media, be it newspapers, magazines, TV or the web.
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