2017-04-13 / Viewpoint

The VIEW from here

On being the ‘new guy’

Andrew Dietderich—Staff Writer Andrew Dietderich—Staff Writer Being the “new guy” wasn’t exactly my favorite title as a novice journalist. In my mind, being saddled with the title called attention to what I already knew — I had a lot to learn.

But the “new guy” title has evolved into something completely different for me.

The evolution began when I landed my first gig as a professional reporter in 1997 at the Oshkosh Northwestern, a daily newspaper in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

I was instantly thrown into a sink-or-swim situation as a business reporter.

I had to write stories I didn’t really know how to write, about companies I knew even less. It took me far too long to get over my college-acquired ego and understand the importance and value of saying, “I don’t know.” One editor made me write a book report about time management. Another yelled at me for having a messy desk. After two years, I got it together.

I moved on and became the new guy as a reporter at The Northville Record. Until then, I didn’t know what “community newspaper” meant. But I saw how readers loved stories about Eagle Scouts, seeing photos of family and friends in the paper, etc. I learned about the connection readers have with their hometown newspaper.

My work caught the eye of an editor at Crain’s Detroit Business who lived in Northville. I was recruited and, for a third time, became the new guy.

At Crain’s, I learned the importance of quality. (In Oshkosh, it was speed. In Northville, it was connection.) Faced with competition primarily from the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, my stories had to provide value, and give people a reason to pick up the publication. I was there for seven years. One thing many journalists believe is that their experience translates easy to the world of public relations.

I was among them. In what I call my “Blue (Oval) Period” I worked in PR for an automaker. I learned a lot about “spin,” but yearned for the days of scouring beats for stories.

I was there for four years. It was a tough sell to convince skeptical journalists I wasn’t interested in furthering a PR career.

Mike Wendland — a reporter for NBC-TV who also runs a wildly popular website about RVing called Roadtreking — helped me get back on track. He gave me opportunities as a freelancer to write stories, help produce podcasts, write scripts for his “PC Mike” news segments, and understand proper use of social media.

About 18 months ago, I was the newbie yet again, having been named editor of The Tuscola County Advertiser in Caro. Though a small market, it represented an opportunity to get back into newspapering.

Today, I find myself once more with the title of “new guy” as the latest addition to the newsroom at The County Press.

No doubt, I have a lot to learn about Lapeer County, but now I’m not afraid to say “I don’t know.” I understand the importance of doing my part to not only consistently and quickly produce content, but making sure material provides value.

And “new guy” no longer represents what I don’t know, but what I have learned and can put to use in an exciting, new situation.

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