Lauren Orsini: How One Guest Blog Post Changed A Young Journalist’s Life

A month ago, Lauren Orsini, 24, was in an all too familiar boat: She had a graduate degree in journalism and was searching for a full-time reporting job. She was temping and in her spare time, reporting on stories on her blog, Otaku Journalist. Then she landed a guest blog on Susannah Breslin’s Forbes.com blog, Pink Slipped. Just days after the post was published, Orsini was offered — and accepted — a job as a reporter and graphics specialist at the Daily Dot, a new online news venture.

I want to share Orsini’s story for a couple of reasons. Yes, Orsini was lucky that Breslin picked her pitch from almost 50 submissions. But I think Orsini would have landed on her feet regardless of being featured on Forbes.com. Her personal mantra for journalism is “Be curious. Be honest. Be bold.”

I wanted to know more about what inspired this young journalist.  Here’s a truncated and slightly edited version of our interview.

Elana Zak: Why did you decide to apply for the guest blog spot on Breslin’s blog?

Lauren Orsini: I entered Susannah Breslin’s contest for young female journalists after I saw Molly Crabapple, an NYC artist I admire, retweet it. I spent the morning reading Susannah’s Forbes blog, her personal blog, and her twitter, and was inspired to pitch her an article. I was nervous since I didn’t try for a “hard news” pitch and I figured something like that would win. But I think Susannah liked that I reported on what I wanted to even though nobody was telling me to do it or paying me.

EZ: Your post ended up being about how to be a journalist in 2011. Can you talk more about how a journalist should go about making their own opportunities?

LO: It’s harder to make opportunities for yourself as a journalist if you think about it as a second job. You could say journalism is my lifestyle choice. If I didn’t give myself personal reporting projects for my free time, I would feel unfulfilled. And how to find these opportunities? For me, it means looking through the Washington Post Going Out Guide and scanning my Twitter feed for events and communities I care about reporting on.

I think it’s best to choose a reporting topic that interests you and keep building your portfolio whether you are getting paid to or not. Thanks to the Internet, anyone can write up an article and publish it for cheap or for free. If you keep it up, people will take notice of your self-published reporting and you’ll become a legitimate journalist in your own right. Waiting to get employed by a traditional newspaper is not the only way (and not the best way, I’d argue) to be a journalist.

After “How to be a journalist in 2011” ran, I was internet-famous for about two days before my life returned to normal. I got fan mail, hate mail, and two job offers! I was on Boing Boing, which was maybe the highlight of my entire life, thanks to Susannah and Xeni being good friends. My blog enjoyed a 1000% traffic spike for a day. I felt like a celebrity whenever I got on Twitter. Of course, I didn’t have time to get a big head because it was over before I knew it. I wrote a post on my blog, How to be lucky, about that. There have been some longer lasting effects, like getting a job at the Daily Dot, but I’ve learned that in the age of the Internet, you have to have much more than just one big break to stay relevant.