3 Questions with... Neal Justin of the Star Tribune (part 2)

Most of us are in [journalism] because we really care, and we really feel like this is a calling that we can make a difference in the world, and this is our way of doing it.

Editor’s note: Students in ThreeSixty Journalism’s Rookie Journalist Camp in July spent time writing a Q-and-A story about guest speakers who visited camp. Check ThreeSixtyJournalism.org for more of these profiles, as well as student blogs.

Neal Justin was introduced by ThreeSixty Journalism Program Manager Miles Trump with these words: “He’s a lot cooler than I am.”

Justin nodded in agreement. “It’s true,” he said.

That quick wit describes Justin well. He is an animated character, which is fitting for a media critic.

Aside from being the media critic at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Justin also helps run the summer internship program at the Star Tribune. He is a highly accomplished journalist, serving as one of the original members of the Asian American Journalists Association governing board, going on to be awarded the AAJA member of the year in 2006 and eventually serving as president for the Minnesota chapter. Justin is also a co-founder of the prestigious JCamp, a summer intensive program for the country’s top high school journalists.

During his lecture – which was more of an interactive discussion – Justin focused on one aspect of journalism: how to present yourself, and the importance of making a good first impression.

Q: What does it mean to be a media critic and what are the other kinds of media you cover?

Justin: Well, that expands every week. It used to be just TV and radio. Now, it’s the Internet. So many shows are streaming. How many people watch Netflix? Hulu? Amazon? I mean all that now is expanding on a regular basis.

I did a story on kind of reviewing and analyzing the (Philando) Castile video that Diamond Reynolds took. It’s really wide open, which is fantastic. It’s a little intimidating because I don’t know what to choose sometimes. I mean there are a thousand channels and there’s this whole new world. So it’s very exciting, but any sort of media consumption right now is kind of wide. And I’m looking at podcasts now, too. So it’s kind of the wild west, very exciting. Very exciting.

Q: What are some of the cool places JCamp has been held at? Also what are the requirements to participate in the program?

Justin: People who are going to be sophomores and juniors are eligible for next year. Incoming seniors are not, unfortunately. We like our students to be returning to their high school to share what they’ve learned. This will be the 16th year. We will be in Washington D.C. And we take 42 kids from across the country. Everybody who’s selected attends absolutely free. We cover their flight and room and board. You have a staff of professional journalists that work with you, just like they do here. We bring in speakers from all over the place.

This year in D.C., Chuck Todd, the moderator of “Meet The Press,” is going to be coming. Has anyone seen the movie “Spotlight”? Marty Baron, who was the editor on that movie, is going to talk to students. The president of CBS News. ...  We usually take one Minnesotan every year. They tend to be from this class, but not always from ThreeSixty.

Q: What difficulties have you faced as a journalist?

Justin: Well I think the biggest difficulty every journalist has – there’s two things, really. One, it doesn’t pay that well. It pays okay. Fortunately money is not a huge priority for me, I don’t have a family to support. I don’t like own sailboats or anything like that, so my pleasures are pretty simple. ... But reality is, there’s not a lot of money to pay in journalism.

… The other thing particularly these days, your thought is, why do people [not] understand the media, how it works? They hate us. You’ll hear the politicians talk about us, “the evil media,” that we have an agenda, and that all we care about is how many people watch us or how many people read us. And there may be journalists like that, but I don’t know them. Most of us are in it because we really care, and we really feel like this is a calling that we can make a difference in the world, and this is our way of doing it. And so I think a lot of that just comes from ignorance, which is why it’s so important for me to come out and have you folks learn a little bit more why this program is so important.

Even if you don’t go into journalism, at least you have an appreciation for how it works. And then if you don’t like the media, you’ll at least have a knowledgeable hate, you know what I mean?

This article has been edited for length and content.

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