I had lunch yesterday with a smart, talented, ferociously ambitious journalist. He’s 31 and desperate to “make it.”
“I’ve paid my dues!” he said, exasperated.
Fact is, he had paid plenty of dues, in his own way. In a media world where few definitions remain static — a story, a journalist, a clip, a body of accomplished work — this won’t get easier anytime soon.
One of the problems with dues, unlike the classic definition of the word — as in union dues paid to an organization that clearly wants your dough and loyalty and numbers you in its ranks — is its fluid meaning. My friend has worked in two challenging places and produced consistently excellent material. Wasn’t that enough?
Not to the editor he called at a Very Big Magazine who drawled (ouch): “I’ve never heard of you.”
Dues are a currency whose value fluctuates wildly. One day you’ve got enough to buy a house — and people you want to work with are calling you. The next day it’s barely enough for a bagel, and you’re the one whose name rings no bells.
In the world of journalism and publishing, at least, whatever you think you’ve achieved means nothing — until someone agrees with you.