Eric Etheridge on Journalism

Etheridge surveying on use of social media.

By Hali Ortega

During a recent visit to campus to talk about his book “Breach of Peace,” Eric Etheridge met with about 40 magazine majors to talk about his experiences as a magazine editor. Etheridge has worked for The Nation, Rolling Stone, and Harper’s. He also was an editor (along with John F. Kennedy Jr.) for the political magazine George when it launched in 1995.

Etheridge began by asking students which social media outlets they use and how often, from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to Tumblr. New technology is changing the way magazines deliver information and the way readers share that information. Pointing to his phone, Etheridge said: “The whole media business is a start-up  You guys just need to recognize that and embrace it.”

 That is leading to more job opportunities for college grads, Etheridge says. “Being young is an asset these days.” But there’s more to landing your first job than just understanding new technology. He offered this “Magic Formula” for success:

First, a journalist has to have smarts, meaning be an expert in something. “Be an independent operator,” Etheridge said. “Own a certain kind of story, or intelligence, or reporting. Really know a story. Be the authority.”

The next piece of the formula is voice, meaning having a thought or opinion on a topic. Etheridge said a voice in a story will answer the question of, “What can I learn from this?” He also stressed the importance of promoting your work online and through social media. “You come to your job with an audience now,” he said. “An employer is going to ask: How many followers do you have?”

The last part is simple: “You just have to be lucky sometimes,” he said.

Etheridge also had some advice for writers in the room: Know the publication you want to write for. The biggest reason writers are turned down for publication is “they weren’t right for my magazine,” he said. “Magazines internally develop personality. You have to embody what the magazine wants to be.”

Etheridge’s latest work, “Breach of Peace,” showcases his photography and interviewing skills. The book places mugshots taken after the arrest of the Freedom Riders in 1961 and places them alongside photos of those same men and women today. Etheridge traveled all across the country to conduct interviews and uncovered some surprising stories. A copy of the book (autographed!) is available in the E.T. Meredith Magazine Center.

For more information on Etheridge and his new book visit http://ericetheridge.com/

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