The following is the full transcript of Robert Krulwich’s 2011 commencement address at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism on May 7, 2011.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Robert Krulwich 2011 Commencement Address at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism
Announcer: Introducing Robert Krulwich.
Robert Krulwich – Journalist
Okay, well. All right. So, ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2011, today you’re on the brink, you’re about to cross over. Last week, you had projects, deadlines and meetings and not a second to spare. And next week? Well, for many of you next week will be luxuriously relaxed with just a touch, or for some of you maybe more than a touch of ”Uh Oh” because your tomorrows may be looking just a bit too relaxed, and “I don’t know what’s next-ish” feeling, and that’s what I want to talk about today. I want to talk to you about your tomorrows in journalism. I know, that it is hard to find a job.
I’m guessing you look at the world of newspapers and magazines and broadcasters and webcasters and Huffposts and Daily Beasts and sometimes the whole bunch of enterprises feels like the City of Troy, you know, this high walled, Fortress of Journalism, occupied by people who somehow got in before you did and now they’re looking down at you, a little newbie standing there on the beach and you’re looking up, thinking: “Hey! How’d you get in there?– and they’re not telling, so.
But the question’s still a good one: How these days does anybody get a good job in journalism, a job where you are surrounded by good people, people you envy and admire, people like the folks you just spent two years with at this school? I mean not all of them – but I imagine that each of you by now have one or two or maybe three or maybe five friends that you made here that you know are really good at what they do, and sometimes better than good, and sometimes better than you.
So how do you taste more of what you tasted here, which if I can presume includes the thrill of occasionally writing a good sentence, of asking exactly the right question at exactly the right moment, of making two pieces of tape fit perfectly together, of getting to meet new people, going to new places, seeing great things unfold before your eyes, little satisfactions of journalism, how can you have more of that? That’s all you’re asking, right? That’s all you want. That, and a salary.
And yet it seems so hard right now. You can send resumes, you can phone friends. You can phone friends of friends, you call up people, you try to make a quick impression, but does that get you the job? For some of you, yes. Some of you, not yet.
It took 10 years for those Greeks to figure a way into Troy… ten years on the friggin’ sitting on the beach until the cleverest guy in the group – the “wily’ Ulysses – figured out a way, involving an oversized horse, which makes you wonder: how wily do you have to be to get a job these days?
And the other possible horrible thought – that because you were born in 1979, 1980, or ‘82, ‘87, or whatever, graduating as it happens into a job-stricken, wildly changing economy, that maybe you’re just doomed. And I think maybe some of you might think that from time to time but to you — and to your parents, I say: No.
I am here to tell you that I think really – I never went to journalism school but I thought about this a lot – I think you are stepping into a world that is riper and more pregnant with newness, and new ideas, new beats, new opportunities than most generations of journalists before you. You are lucky to be you, very lucky, although of course you’re probably not feeling it at the moment.
So I want to tell you a feel-bad story that I think might make you feel good. It’s about a guy who got a job as a correspondent at CBS News, in its day, the best place in the world to work. And he got it at the age of 23. He’d had a short stint at the Charlotte News in North Carolina; he’d written some good pieces and he got a call — literally, he got called and was asked to come to the CBS Building, then on Madison Avenue in New York, where he was offered a writing job on the spot. These things once actually happened. And because he was fast, a natural stylist with a keen eye, it happened to Charles Kuralt. That was his name, Charles Kuralt.
And he knew how lucky he was, because at that first job interview, as he walked from the elevator to the guy he was supposed to talk to, on his way down the hall, he passed a door – it was closed, but on it, lettered in gold, were the words “Mr. Murrow”, as in Edward R. Murrow, who was at that moment – yep, whenever you mention his name – who at that point was the anchor of the evening newscast. And when Charles looked around he looked at the mailboxes with names on them that he saw, those names, you may not know them now, but they were legends and also always accompanied by a choir of bells, when you hear Eric Serveried, Charles Collingwood, Richard C. Hottelet, Daniel Shorr, Robert Trout. This was friggin unbelievable: to be one of Murrow’s boys, at 23 when you are almost –.