Publication date: March 5, 2009 | print version
For a long time I have wanted to share my idea of a present-day IT-journalist. Here are three generalized images of a today’s typical characters from Germany, the USA and Russia. Please read between the lines, and you will see that the images are quite typical.
Let’s begin with Germany. It is really pleasant to deal with German editors: the employees are polite and professional. If the person you need is absent at the moment, you will be asked to call again at a given time (e.g. Friday, 11 o’clock) or they can even call back themselves no matter where you live. Well then, here is the first image.
Ziff Davis Online Publishing, Internet Professionell, PC Professionell, PC Welt
Friedrich Hoffmann avoids talking about himself without reference to his work by all available means. In his opinion, what is private should remain private. But he shared his tales about his professional activity and his thoughts about IT-journalism of today with pleasure.
What kind of education do you have?
I graduated from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. My major was “Journalism”, and my minor was “Political Science, Sociology and History of Arts”. But I did not start working at once, as I had to take two years’ break in order to do non-military service in a Hamburg orphan asylum.
And what happened afterwards? Weren’t you disappointed with your profession after a long break and a change of occupation?
Of course, there were a lot of various thoughts in my young head, but I have always felt that it is my vocation to work with the word. I was 23 when I began to look for a job consciously and, as a result, started my career. I was employed as a PR specialist by a company, which dealt with developing b2c and b2b program solutions for financial management. That experience was really valuable. I got a lot of new knowledge about software market, the current state of the World Wide Web and its business potential. I became more and more concerned by the problems of IT branch. I promoted the products of that company till 2005, and I naturally made some contacts with targeted magazines and main news portals.
Therefore, you were invited to join editorial staff?
Not exactly. I am not officially employed. Along with my main job, I became a freelance writer: I wrote articles that were bought by some magazines quite willingly. Soon I began to get orders from magazines, and I decided to quit my job and to commit myself to journalism.
What are your articles about?
About various things – networks, network security, web-design, Internet-marketing, freeware. But the core of my interest is still the social aspects of the Internet: social services, web 2.0 etc. By the way, in 1996, when still going to college, I had written the first German articles dedicated to flirtation, acquaintance and love online long before they became a part of our life.
I know that you also write books. How do you manage to find time for that?
I guess it cannot be helped. Every journalist writes books, as everybody gathers unique experience in the course of his life, not excepting you or me. And everybody needs to share this experience, but a journalist feels this need stronger than anybody else. I satisfy this need with writing books. One of my books on marketing has already been translated to four languages and is successfully sold in Europe. It means that my experience is instructive for somebody!
What can you say about the present-day IT journalism? You must reflect on your profession a lot.
I am a wiper by profession! Everybody is surprised to hear it, but I am going to explain myself. It is commonly considered, that only a “pro”, which has worked in a technical department of an IT company for several years, can work as an IT journalist. So, if you read any IT article, it will be either boring or difficult to understand unless the subject is directly connected to your work. There is too much dust in IT journalism, and somebody needs to wipe it away. That is what I deal with. And, judging by my readers’ comments, I seem to be quite a good contemporary wiper, which wipes the dust properly.
The US. American journalists differ a lot from their German colleagues. First, magazines’ sites contain a great amount of information, which is often irrelevant and difficult to sort out. When you make a call to editorial office, most likely you will hear a cushioned female voice of the answering system, which will make you play a quest game named “If you would like to… then push…” When you eventually manage to talk to somebody, you will be asked to write to the editor’s e-mail, which has been inactive for a long time (as you will tell them later). Though, it must be an “entrance threshold”… and, due to this, overcoming this mental barrier will seem even more rewarding. And here is the second portrait.
California, the US
Computer Shopper, Computer Power User, The Washington Post, New York's Computer Click
Kevin, please tell us about your job. How did you become an IT journalist?
With pleasure! I live in California, in a small town named Humboldt City, together with my daughter and my wife. Besides, we have plenty of companions: a parakeet, two lizards, a cat and a dog. Our house is not big, but we have managed to transform the basement into a studio: you know that I am keen on music! I adore drums and all percussion instruments. I am a member of a music band and compose music for computer games.
Amazing! And, in addition, as a journalist, you have one of the most hectic professions! How do you cope with everything?
I have excellent leadership qualities and some work experience in a computer company. I got employed as a technical support service manager while still studying at college, proved to be a good employee and became the head of copyrighting department after graduation. In that software company I got deep technical knowledge, and now I possess qualifications, which are virtually exceptional for an IT journalist.
And what kind of education do you have? What college did you graduate from?
My work is not actually connected with my education. As I have already said, I got my technical knowledge in an IT company, not at college. I took bachelor's degree in a college of journalism, and later I became Master of Psychology in another university.
Where can we find the examples of your articles? I could not find them on your web site.
What for should they be there? It would merely provoke copyright violation. I give examples only in private correspondence. The site contains only the most important information: the topics (databases, office technologies and flow of documents, various solutions for business and networks) and the types of my articles. And if you are too lazy to write, use Google then.
Where do you find yourself? What is your vocation – a journalist, an IT person or a musician?
I am most likely to be a musician. I try to spend every free minute in my studio. But journalism is music, too, so to say – it is the music of words, and you should play it in such a way that those you write for would hear it and listen it up to the end.
But why do you write about software and high technologies? Why not about music or psychology?
Because I find it very interesting. Потому что мне это очень интересно. In general, all my knowledge, experience and hobbies help me in writing about IT. I have already mentioned music; and psychology helps me understand my readers. I am good at writing for a common user. Look, what Rob Winfried, the former technical editor of a major publishing house, wrote about me: “Kevin’s main advantage lies not in his technical knowledge, but in his ability to understand the level of his readers’ technical knowledge and to write his articles according to this level. There are too many technical writers around us, and very few of them can transform the IT world into several paragraphs, which will take the reader away to an amazing journey…”
It should be noted, that today’s Russian IT journalists are quite adequate, civilized and intelligent. They are analysts, who literately express their expert opinion on market problems. They are vivid personalities, who actually create public opinion and influence it greatly but skillfully, aware of the scope of responsibility.
As for editors, the situation is not so ideal, as in Germany. When talking to a secretary, who is willing to share her frustration, you feel like you are talking at least to the God. But it refers not so much to journalism, as to the service standards in Russia.
Now, meet our third character.
as “unemployed”, but for me it is the new level
of a man’s professional actualization.
How did you engage in journalism? Why was it IT journalism?
I deal with analytics, because I consider it an intellectual and rewarding work. That is why I have something to say, and that is why I am a journalist. Analytics is a field where one can approve oneself, apply the stored knowledge and, in addition to this, develop further.
What would you like to come to?
To my own business. I am a manager by education and deep in my heart. IT market is greatly dynamic and bears a powerful business-charge, so it attracts me by all means.
Do you work as a freelancer?
I do, but in the sense of being able to control my working hours as I see proper. I am an independent artist, so to say. I do not take orders. In general, our society has a strange attitude to this word, as for many people “freelancer” means the same as “unemployed”, but for me it is the new level of a man’s professional actualization, no matter what is his profession – a manager, a writer, a translator or a toast-master. When somebody can organize himself and his time in such a way, when he chooses himself what to do and bears full responsibility for his choice, such a person would manage with any duties in any staff, even if he does not appear at the office.
***As a conclusion, I would say that it is difficult to overestimate the role of a journalist in the present-day consumer society. Without those who can speak, those who should hear would never hear anything. The communication with them is getting harder, as more and more people try to use mass media for the purpose of their business. Journalists are humans above all, no matter what country or field they work in. Never forget about it. Take into account and respect your interlocutor’s peculiarities, and you will be treated likewise.