Giving advice is in my blood, professionally and personally. (You can ask my colleagues. Or my younger sisters.) And I especially enjoy talking with young people who are contemplating a professional life in journalism. In particular, I attract students who are struggling between the fourth estate and the law.
These uncertain students have come to the right place. I was a reporter before (and during) law school, then gave legal advice to journalists before returning to the newsroom for my job in broadcast standards. My days are spent working through policy and ethics questions with journalists and, at times, our own NBC lawyers.
In the course of my work, I think I've heard almost every possible solution to the law-journalism career dilemma. They range from the local anchor I once interviewed who decided to leave the studio and go to law school, to my friend Adam Liptak, a former lawyer for The New York Times who is now a reporter there, taking on the paper's toughest in-house stories. (Link: Adam's reporting from Oct. 16 about Judy Miller, NYTimes.com login required)
Of course, I have lawyer-journalist company here, including Dan Abrams and Nightly writer and fellow Daily Nightly blogger Barbara Raab. And sometimes reporters who cover law do it so well it just seems they have a law degree (Pete Williams comes to mind).
It's a good bet many of my colleagues are helping others answer the same important question: which is the smartest, most rewarding career choice, law or journalism?
Here are my two cents: I never discourage anyone from attending law school, even if they are not sure it's their heart's desire. I went, and am glad I did. But I have a warning for cub reporters contemplating the law: your passion for news will be hard to ignore. In the years ahead, we'll need people with the talents that lawyers also depend on -- intelligence, analytic skills and a concern about justice -- to navigate our own turbulent world of journalism, and help our audience make sense of the day's events.
So, if I haven't heard from you yet, and you are thinking about what to do next, I say: join us. Follow your passion. You can always dole out the tuition payments later.
P.S. In the next couple of weeks, I'll be on the road lecturing at some universities, including my alma mater (scroll down to Nov. 5). I'm sure to meet some smart, inquisitive students, and I expect to field some challenging questions. Please check back for some notes from the front.