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Today's word on journalism

Monday, November 5, 2007

On Objectivity:

"I still insist that 'objective journalism' is a contradiction in terms. But I want to draw a very hard line between the inevitable reality of 'subjective journalism' and the idea that any honestly subjective journalist might feel free to estimate a crowd at a rally for some candidates the journalist happens to like personally at 2,000 instead of 612 -- or to imply that a candidate the journalist views with gross contempt, personally, is a less effective campaigner than he actually is."

-- Hunter S. Thompson, from Fear & Loathing: CORRECTIONS, RETRACTIONS, APOLOGIES, COP-OUTS, ETC., a 1972 memo to Rolling Stone editor Jann S. Wenner, excerpted in the current (November 2007) issue of Harper’s Magazine (Thanks to alert WORDster Andy Merton)

Knocking on doors: Hard summer work pays off for some

By Clint Merrick

October 18, 2007|--It is 9 a.m. on a Saturday in an outskirt town of Minneapolis, and it is uncomfortably quiet. It is quiet because people are still in bed. Clark Lind steps out of a car filled with four other summer salesmen from Utah, all dressed in khaki shorts and matching polo shirts. The first door is knocked, opened and shut with few words exchanged. This routine will continue for close to 12 hours on a typical day working for American Alarm.

"The only thing that keeps you going is a positive mindset, which is harder than you would think to keep," Lind said.

Lind, like many students, spent last summer knocking doors to pay for his college tuition and to put a few extra nickels in his pocket. Many USU students are finding the answer to their financial conundrums through summer sales jobs. This isn't a new option. Students have been selling door-to-door for years.

"My father sold knives and pens door to door to earn money when he was in college. The products being sold have definitely changed, but it has consistently proved itself as a great way to earn money," said Chris Thompson, junior in finance.

Thompson spent his summer selling pest control in Utah; however others venture out of state every summer selling products and services such as security systems, satellite TV, Cutco knives or even mobile homes. This reluctant and nervous workforce heads out each year with numbers towering over 150,000, according to an article by Kathy Chu in USA Today. The article also stated that they pay their own way, doing work that others won't while working as independent contractors, without benefits.

But even though there are many out-of-pocket expenses, Brad Grandy, USU student, believes that it is still worth the risk.

"You can make more money doing this than anything else with the education you have," Grandy said.

Even though the high pay scale may be enticing, both Grandy and Sorensen believe it is high pressure, commission based selling that offers little security.

Depending on the area, door-to-door sales can be dangerous. Grandy said that he consistently worked by himself and in the ghetto. He was also jumped by group of guys while selling in Indianapolis, Indiana. "White boy you in the hood! You've committed a violation," said the group, as they chased him down an alleyway, only to be stopped by an intervening neighborhood man that tackled a few of the men.

Jeff Sorensen, who sold security systems in California this last summer, said that the first thing students need to look for is a well established company with a good track record. They may not pay the most, he added, but overall they will have greater organization, customer service and they will fulfill their promises. There will always be start-up companies that promise the moon just to get students to go with them, but their lack of organization can really cost them in the long run, he said.

If USU students haven't been approached by anyone with information about these jobs while on campus, just wait. It is almost inevitable. As spring semester approaches, there will be floods of managers representing summer sales companies that will love to talk with students about the opportunity while they are in their hidden nooks at the library or on their way to class.

They may invite students to a meeting with promises of free lunch, huge signing bonuses, and unprecedented success, but they'll need to ask themselves, "What aren't they telling me, and what information do I really need to know?"

Recruitment is essential for these companies to do well during the summer and they go to great lengths to hire motivated college students. It is not unheard of to see these companies spend upwards of $100,000 on parties for the sole purpose of recruiting new salespeople, said Lind.

As independent contractors, students have the potential to write their own paychecks, or at least that is what the companies will tell them. These sales companies may promise an obscene amount of money in just three months time, but they seldom explain the expenses their employees will incur during the summer months.

"The expenses were small at first because we were knocking doors close to home, but soon we were traveling over an hour each way to get to our areas. I don't know if you've noticed, but gas isn't exactly cheap these days," said Lind.

The company that students sign on with is important, but working with the right sales team is essential. They should make sure their managers are people they know and trust will fulfill their promises. Students will rely heavily on their coworkers for emotional support, so make sure that the other employees aren't balls of bitterness and deceit.

There are many things in sales that they won't have control over. Students may be able to perfect everything on their end, but if the company is in disarray, they simply won't be able to mend things.

New salespeople shouldn't expect the company to be flawless in the first few weeks of work. They will make mistakes and so will their co-workers and managers. There is always a learning curve to get over. However, it is a hard thing to justify when salespeople have doors slamming in their faces, police double-checking credentials and neighborhood kids hitting them with water balloons.

When it comes to sales, there are heated opinions on everything; however, all agree that these sales jobs aren't for everyone.

"As far as selling goes, some people aren't down with people telling them no, day in and day out. Some people are people people. But a people person doesn't necessarily equal a good salesperson," said Grandy.

Even though sales can be difficult, many offices average between $15,000 and $45,000 per summer, per sales rep. It is easy to see how this job market can be so appealing to college students. Money is the biggest motivator for companies looking for qualified employees, but that doesn't always have the greatest impact.

"I hate it when the company flashes money and blows their nose with hundred dollar bills," Thompson said.

Sorensen earned more than average for a salesperson and said his reason for selling security systems over the summer was to prove his family wrong.

"They thought the whole thing was a scam," Sorensen said. However, his overall experience in California proved to be very redeeming.

"I wanted to be financially free. I was stressed last year about having to work construction just to buy food," Sorenson said. "I didn't want to have to worry about money. My biggest motivation was to go to Wal-Mart, buy what I wanted, and not worry about overdrafting."

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