For John Teti, well-rounded skill sets are key in modern media industry
By Drew Preston
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Working for “The Daily Show” bored John Teti.
Teti is a senior editor at the A.V. Club in Chicago, a title and position he invented for himself when he started working there full time in 2013. The A.V. Club is an online entertainment publication owned by The Onion, Inc.
“It’s a title that I invented when I came out here. We knew what I wanted to do, and we sort of slapped this title on it. I do kind of have a managerial role,” Teti said in a phone interview. He was comparing his duties at the A.V. Club to fellow senior editor Sean O’Neal.
Teti is a graduate of Dartmouth University, where he completed his master’s degree in 2005. He worked for the school’s student newspaper, The Dartmouth, through all four of his undergraduate years. By his senior year, he was the editor-in-chief.
Many aspire to work where Teti found a job immediately out of school. After finishing things at Dartmouth, he was hired as an associate producer at “The Daily Show.” Through college, he thought that he wanted to work in the television industry, but he learned through experience that that was not the case.
“My job was in the field department; my job was basically to come up with ideas for field segments that we did. When Jon Stewart would approve any of them I would help find characters we would interview, set up a location and whatnot to help produce it. I did that for a couple years, and it just got boring. I felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again and I felt like I didn’t have as much creative input as I wanted,” Teti said.
Teti was done with “The Daily Show” by the end of 2006. From there, he was involved in improv and standup comedy. Meanwhile, he was constantly writing, posting on his blog Geek Out New York.
“From there, I happened to meet someone who worked on the business side of The Onion. And I said to him, ‘Hey, I’d love to write videogame reviews for the A.V. Club.’ And I got in touch with the editor there, and he liked some of my clips from the blog and I started doing that more.”
He gradually worked his way into his position at the A.V. Club. He began freelancing for the publication in 2008 and began working for them full time as the games editor in 2012. In November 2013, he moved from New York to Chicago to assume his current role.
Teti enjoys his job immensely, partially because of the variety that every day presents him.
“Each day really is different,” Teti said. “Every Thursday we have a meeting of all the staff in the morning. That’s sort of our time every week to get those more collaborative things underway, and also to check in with everyone, see how everyone’s coming along, what difficulties and challenges everyone’s encountering. I wrote a newswire. You know, I usually have to write. A few times a week I need to write a newswire or a ‘Great Job, Internet!’ or some little thing, just to pull my weight. I spent the rest of the day working on my weekly football column, which goes up on Fridays.”
Being a senior editor, Teti has more duties than just writing.
“One of the nice things about working at the A.V. Club is that some days I’m really doing a lot of managerial work, helping people get pieces going, editing pieces as they come in. You know, handling publication stuff in the CMS and making sure things look right on the site. Some days are more dedicated to just me writing. One of the reasons I love it here is that it changes from day to day; it stays interesting for me.”
Another thing that makes his job enjoyable at the A.V. Club is its status as an online-only publication. Teti says that there are a number of benefits to working with online publishing platforms.
“For me, what I like about working on the Web as a medium is that I can make connections in my criticisms and I can illustrate them in so many interesting ways,” Teti said. “I know how to cut together a video clip, or I can tweet or Instagram. I think if you took a lot of my columns and printed them out, you’d still be getting a lot out of them, but you’d only maybe be getting 80 percent. You need the multimedia experience.”
The A.V. Club is an example of the shifting landscape of media, with more and more publications moving from print to online. Even in this shifting landscape, there are certain skills that Teti sees remaining important.
“One thing I’m shocked that people don’t work on is the pure craft of the English language. Really, you’ve got to be: A) a voracious reader so that you’re processing the language all the time and getting it into your bones, and B) you’ve got to be ruthless with yourself in terms of grammar and style. It’s those little things that make such a big difference to editors.”
Teti has one important piece of advice for students looking for jobs in the media industry: Be ready to do things on your own.
“I taught myself how to edit video and how to program HTML and CMS. I love computers, so maybe that’s something I would do because I’m a weirdo. But you can acquire each skill. Learn how to do as much of it as you can by yourself because you do have to do everything. To me, that’s only going to become more so in the five-to-10 year timeframe. You need to be able to put together a sentence, like I said, but you have to have skills beyond that so you can offer yourself as a package, not just one thing, to a media outlet.”