Rick Nathanson is a seasoned reporter who has covered just about every beat. The one thing all beats have in common is the need to always be well read and versed in new trends. Rick is our featured reporter for our new “Media Spotlight” blog. We asked him a few questions about his favorite beat and insights into a noteworthy career.
What is your role at the Albuquerque Journal and how long have you worked there?
I began working at the Journal in May 1979 and over the years have worked nearly every beat at one time or another. I was a writer in the Features Department for many of those years, writing for all the daily themed feature sections we produced at the time, as well as multiple tabloid magazines we produced throughout each month. Feeling the need for a change and to return to my roots, I went back to the City Desk a few years ago, but I still write the occasional metro feature - meaning a softer feature story built around a harder news angle. As a general assignment reporter my "beat" is pretty much everything. In any given week I may cover a court case, a mayor's initiative, a press conference with the governor, chronicle the plight of the homeless or write an obituary of some notable person. Think of me as a jack of all trades (and master of none). It does, however, require me to stay current with the major issues of the day and be familiar with the stories other reporters have filed.
What’s the best and worst part of your job?
The best part of my job is the variety of stories I get to cover. Every topic I take on, every story I write allows me an opportunity to learn something new. That's what keeps me interested as a reporter and writer, and what I find endlessly fascinating about the news business.
The worst part of my job is seeing how the industry has changed, mostly as a result of the Internet. Rather than make a daily newspaper part of their daily diet, I see young people going to "blogs," entertainment websites or consulting their friends' Twitter feeds, Instagram accounts and Facebook pages to stay up on the "news." They are often ill-informed or under-informed about the world around them. While they have become extremely adept with social media and technology, their critical thinking skills have suffered.
Newspapers themselves have gotten thinner, newsroom staffs smaller and salaries stagnant, not only because fewer members of the public are in the habit of reading a daily newspaper, but also because advertisers don't support newspapers like they used. They either don't advertise at all, or have gotten used to the less expensive advertising available from online sources, including online newspaper editions.
When was the last time the Garrity Group placed an ad in the hard copy of the Albuquerque Journal?
What advice do you have for someone wanting to become a journalist?
Listen to your parents and go to medical school! ... However, if you insist on becoming a journalist, read a daily newspaper, watch a daily TV newscast, and make sure you study print journalism in school -- even if you're planning a career in broadcast journalism. Most TV reporters I've met said studying print journalism helped them become better at organizing information and better at writing news copy.
What are your favorite stories to cover?
I don't necessarily have a favorite type of story, though I am fond of stories that have an impact, generate discussion about a topic and ultimately elicit change.
Which Albuquerque Journal stories are most popular with your readers?
Anecdotally, I'd have to say that people are preoccupied with stories about crime and animals... and sports, of course.
We could run a story about a cure being found for some disease, but readers will first gravitate to the items about shootings, carnage on the roads, jail beatings and the like. Of course if animals are hurt in the commissioning of these crimes and horrible accidents, readers truly get outraged. Some of the best read stories in the newspaper are about dogs and cats being reunited with their families, new animal exhibits at the zoo, and the death of older zoo animals.
Hardcore sports fans tend to seek out stories about their favorite teams and athletes, and will often turn to the sports section of the paper to read first.
Also, news obituaries are extremely well read. People like to hear about the lives of well-known or accomplished folks who passed on, and a good obit should provide a compelling snapshot into someone's life and make it obvious why this person was singled out for a news obit.