Class of 2020: Where are they now? Donny Morrison

The next generation of journalists graduated in 2020 into a challenging job market unlike any other. We spotlighted them this summer, shared advice from their role models, and are checking in with them this month to see where they are now and what they’re learning about journalism. 

Name: Donny Morrison

School: University of Oregon

Current job: Easy Reader News

New wackiest story: Is that the ‘Gilligan’s Island’ theme? Might be Bill Gross annoying his neighbor

Where are you working right now? Is the position full-time, part-time or an internship?

Morrison: I moved to Los Angeles from Eugene, Ore. for a 10-week internship at The Wall Street Journal in September. As a Wall Street Journal intern in fall 2020, I wrote news stories and features, took photos and contributed video reporting on wildfire coverage in three states.

I covered the election, protests, and even a dispute between two well-to-do neighbors in Laguna Beach that involved the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song. One of my goals was to write about the recovery community in my home state of Oregon. I covered the historic passing of Measure 110, which made Oregon the first state to decriminalize all drugs with the aim of reducing incarceration rates and increasing access to treatment. 

At the end of my internship, I got a job at a small weekly newspaper called Easy Reader News that serves the Hermosa, Manhattan and Redondo Beach area of Los Angeles County. I’m still fairly new, but I’ll likely be covering the city beat for both Manhattan and Hermosa Beach. I was hired as a freelancer, but will be getting paid the same amount weekly. 

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job search?

Morrison: The biggest lesson I learned on the job search was not to get discouraged, which is much easier said than done. The catch-22 of job hunting for me is that it’s so hard to interview well when I’m desperate or discouraged, which is always the case when I’m looking for employment. It’s hard to sell myself without feeling like a fraud. It’s so important to remain confident and undaunted in the face of mass rejection, but eventually you’ll find something.

What’s been your best moment in journalism since graduation?

Morrison: My best moment was probably having my new boss at Easy Reader News usher me into his car after my job interview and take me to the local surf shop to buy me a $300 wet suit because I mentioned I’d like to learn to surf. One of the craziest job interview experiences ever. 

What do you wish you had learned as a student that you’re learning on the job?

Morrison: I wish I would have learned how to understand and interpret legal documents better. The legalese in a lot of court documents makes my job take a lot longer because I never learned how to navigate these types of documents. I wish there would have been a document digging course at the UO SOJC. 

Have your journalism goals changed since graduation, and if so how?

Morrison: My goals in journalism haven’t changed much. I still want to write features and work on longer, investigative stories. Working at the WSJ and seeing how a prestigious paper works hasn’t deterred me from wanting to work in the biggest newsrooms. It only made me more anxious to get there eventually!

What’s the NEW wackiest story you’ve ever worked on?

Morrison: The wackiest story I did was definitely my Bill Gross feature. A billionaire hedge fund retiree built a gigantic art installation in the backyard of his Laguna Beach mansion. When his tech entrepreneur neighbor complained to the city, the billionaire began playing the Gilligan’s Island theme song on outdoor speakers at all hours of the night in retaliation. I got to go to the houses and take photos. The story was featured on the front page of the WSJ during election week.

How are you taking care of yourself and staying motivated right now?

Morrison: Since the internship was remote, it was really important for me to force myself to either run or take a bike ride once a day to keep moving. I’m most productive in the mornings and often will work through breakfast, only to get a massive stomach ache come lunchtime. I’ve tried my best to avoid this by keeping an energy bar or breakfast bar near my bed in the morning in case I forget to eat. Such is the life of a burgeoning writer!

Read Morrison’s original profile here.

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