No one has to think up this stuff

Friday, October 15, 2004

This column was originally published on Dec. 1, 2000. Joe Sullivan is on vacation.

Some of you are overheating from a burning question you keep asking me.

And your question doesn't have anything to do with what I want for Christmas.

No, the question I hear most often is this: Where do you get the ideas for your columns? This is such an easy one.

I don't get my ideas from anywhere. My columns are a mirror of my life. Life happens. Ergo, columns happen too.

For example: At lunch with my wife this week, a woman stopped by to chat and mentioned that young people with no work experience find it difficult to get hired because -- are you ready? -- they have no work experience. "How are they supposed to get experience?" the woman wanted to know. She turned to me and said, "You ought to write a column about that." Here 'tis.

The way for young people to get work experience is to show up for work and start working. Without even being hired. I can't tell you the number of people I know who are successful today who got their first experience by screwing up enough courage to ask some boss if they could work for free just to have something to put on a resume.

A variation on that theme are the internships where you do get paid. We have two or three paid internships here in the newsroom every year. I think it's important to give aspiring journalists that learning -- and working -- opportunity. After the paid positions are filled, I offer to let anyone else interested in an internship work all summer for free. I rarely get turned down.

When I was at the paper in Topeka, Kan., I started an internship program that offered 20 summer jobs to college students majoring in journalism. Half were paid positions (barely minimum wage). A fourth were for no pay. And a fourth paid to participate. It was a solid and intensive internship program, and in its second year there were more than 600 applications for the 20 slots. No one flinched at not being paid or even having to pay.

Just think how many opportunities there would be for young people to get work experience if every boss offered some variation of this program.

Here's another question I was asked recently: "Joe, why don't you do something about the time changes every spring and fall?"

Not too long ago I mentioned in a column how I hate to give up daylight-saving time because it gets dark too early. But there's that whiny argument that, without the time change, school kids would have to wait for buses in the morning in the dark, and that's not safe for the poor darlings.

Now that we've got a month of daylight-wasting time under our belts, I think we really do need to stop talking about the time changes twice a year and start doing something. You could do what I do with one of the clocks here in my office: I never change it back and forth. And I have another clock that hasn't moved a second in over two years. I guess the batteries are dead. But I won't let anyone touch that motionless clock. For two reasons. First: It's accurate twice a day. Second: It's accurate every time I look at it for somewhere in the world, and it's nice to know what time it is somewhere else once in while.

So, there you have it. Another column about life. My life.

It's the only one I know anything about.

R. Joe Sullivan is editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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