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Veteran Texas editor tells aspiring journalists to write daily

Sarah Jo Lambert
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

A veteran of the journalism industry, Joe Gulick has been working for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal for 33 years. After working in the editorial department for 12 years and then being a beat reporter, he became editor of the editorial page. He began working for the Lubbock paper after getting his master’s degree at Texas Tech University. His first journalism job was at the student newspaper, now called the Daily Toreador at Texas Tech.

Joe Gulick has worked with the Lubbock Avalanche Journal for 33 years.

Joe Gulick has worked with the Lubbock Avalanche Journal for 33 years. Photo credit Lubbock Avalanche Journal.

With experience in editing, beat reporting and editorial writing, Gulick has  many tips for aspiring journalists and writers.  When he first started working in the editorial department, there were four people on staff, and as the paper gradually changed, Gulick was taking on responsibilities that put him in line for the editorial page editor’s job. In this phone interview, Joe Gulick reveals his day-to-day life, ups-and-downs and his most interesting stories.

Q: What is a typical day for you like?

A: There are nine editorial pages that come out a week. Monday is always easier, but come Friday everyone is working toward the weekend deadline. I write four quick opinion editorials, which are 50-60 word opinion pieces, a week. I create the editorial board agenda for the Wednesday meetings that consists of a list of topics to suggest for pieces throughout the week. I edit columns, letters to the editor and other editorial pieces coming out in the next day’s paper.

Q: What are some of the good and bad demands of your job?

A: It is fun to work with editorial board members and forming your opinions because we don’t always agree. It is interesting to hear all of the opinions of people that I work with. Also, sometimes I don’t always have the opportunity to write in my personal opinion, and it is different to see the other perspective. In this society nowadays, people are more able and willing to be rude. When someone disagrees with the opinion in the paper, they will call and complain, rant and rave, occasionally, cursing. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, it isn’t fun.

Q: What advice would you have for an aspiring journalist like me?

A: One thing every writer should do is write. Many people think of themselves as writers, but aren’t writers. If you don’t have an internship, you should keep a journal, but not like a diary. If you see something happen that might make an interesting story, write it down in your journal. You don’t have to write the story, but write observations and how the story might be written. I recommend writing at least an hour a day, and once you get started, you might find some freelance work. Also, exchange letters and connect with editors, and find what the editors are interested in.

Q: How is the Lubbock Avalanche Journal changing with the new technologies?

A: We are doing well with the technologies. We are owned by the Morris chain out of Georgia, and they are very big on keeping current. They actually bought all of the reporters smart phones, so that they could take video and photos of any story that they found. It is also important to stay on all of the social media platforms. Our motto is being a digital first company, print second.

Q: What best prepared you for your career as a journalist?

A: I had really great teachers and worked for the Tech Daily or Daily Toreador. It is one thing to learn about journalism, but quite another thing to actually do it. You have to learn it first, though, before you can do it. Also, have the courage to take the big stories, and get your feet wet. The combination of all these things helped me a lot.

Q: What was the coolest experience you had working for the Lubbock AJ?

A: It might not have been the most exciting, but I was the most emotionally involved. I wrote a story about a heart surgeon who developed a deathly illness. He was the first person to do a heart transplant in the area and eventually had performed 32 heart transplants and over a thousand other operations. I got to know him and cover his illness in his words. That was a special story because we became very good friends. It is important to preserve stories that people aren’t used to being preserved. I have interviewed two presidents, governors, statesmen, movie stars and other celebrities. However, the most important interviews are the normal people with extraordinary stories. Those are the stories that need to be told.

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