My Career: The Remix

An old-school reporter assesses her new-school marketability in the midst of the news media's identity crisis.

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The other day I decided to update my resume. First, I changed my title from journalist to content producer. Next, I went through and carefully deleted some entries then updated others.

That December 1988 Providence Journal Bulletin Sunday Magazine cover story on heroin addicts in Gloucester, Mass.? Buh-bye.

That 1988 summer internship on the features desk at The Philadelphia Daily News? Zap!

That 1987 Writer's Fellowship at The Village Voice? Hasta la vista.

To the descriptions of more recent jobs, I bumped up the descriptive flair: At National Public Radio, where I worked for much of last year developing Tell Me More, with Michel Martin, a multicultural talk program, I added more details describing my accomplishments, with an emphasis on everything webby and digital.

Then I sat back and considered my handiwork. I tried to look at it through the eyes of a potential employer. God forbid my on-paper avatar come off as too old school—or as too liberal. (At the suggestion of an editor friend, I deleted my birthdate, 1963, and the name of the city of my birth, San Francisco.) It occurred to me then, that this process of dispassionately examining one's work history requires a degree of disconnection that is not entirely unpleasant, even if it is instigated by a cold new reality: In order to remain relevant at a time when the news business is undergoing an identity crisis, I must bury a significant part of my professional identity. If that's the case—and here's a question I've asked myself a lot over 20 years—how much of the real me do I need to bury or obscure? How relevant am I—a black woman of a certain age—in this industry?

But that's getting ahead of myself. Back to a fresh assessment of the updated resume. The Me that exists on the resume, in neat lines of Times New Roman typeface, appears to be industrious, independent and capable of completing projects long- and-short-term. This Me is a team player, yet also capable of delivering "products"—what we used to call "stories" or "opinion pieces"—that are distinctively branded in her own voice. This Me has worked consistently since college, progressing from staff writing jobs at small newspapers, to staff writing at large newspapers, to writing opinion and criticism for magazines, to writing and editing nonfiction books. She has also, in recent years, even dipped into the world of Web publications and broadcasting...though, speaking of the Web, This Me doesn't have a personal Web site or blog. And there is a two-year gap between the end of that column-writing gig at Africana.com and the NPR job in '07.

What accounts for those two things—the lack of a personal Web site or blog and the two-year gap?

Ack. Still, I deserve to give myself a little pat on the back. I have worked fairly consistently during the past 20 years in a business—it used to be called journalism—that is hella hard on one's soul. (Especially the souls of black women: See Volunteer Slavery, by Jill Nelson.)

I know that the personal stuff that exists between those lines of typeface—the marriage, the deaths of family members, the cross-country moves, the child-births and child-raising, the waxing and waning friendships, the separation and divorce—is what truly constitutes the complete Me. The between-the-lines details inform and color the entries that make up the Professional Me, the journalist who once took great pride in being able to do journalism.

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