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July 9, 2008

Securing Their Future

Evolution can be a funny thing, and not only if you’re a religious fanatic. Despite how self-evident natural selection might seem, the adaptations it gives rise to can leave us scratching our heads, not unlike our conspicuously hirsute forbearers. Take, for example, the traditional news publishing model. Competence in identifying misplaced participles no longer guarantees a hungry young grad a seat at the editorial table—but willingness to take a bullet just might.

Image Description

Drained from a long day of proofreading.

A few weeks ago, Gawker (via DCeiver) posted an ad to the jobs section of the Washington, DC, craigslist. The ad, created by a “dynamic, entrepreneurial for-profit college in Northwest D.C.,” offers $18 an hour, and says it’s looking for:

An experienced copy writer and desktop publisher to lead aspects of both internal and external written communications. BA or BS Degree in Journalism, Communications, English or other Liberal Arts degrees….The candidate should be fluent in desktop publishing and should be familiar with technical and non-technical writing standards, style manuals and proofreaders' marks.

Eighteen dollars an hour for someone “experienced” is by no means fantastic, but considering a) the current job market, and b) the publishing job market, it’s probably reasonable. And yet, the rub, nay, “twist”:

The twist: while you are writing copy you will also fill the role of security guard, working 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. We will buy your uniform. You won't carry a gun. Applicants must be able to pass a drug screen as well as a criminal background check. The security guard spends most of the shift seated at the reception desk, and there will be very minimal security duties. Practically the entire shift you will be able to focus on writing copy—you'll just happen to be wearing a uniform.

Since the ad’s location was listed as Tenleytown, the Embassy-lined neighborhood that plays host to American University, Gawker assumed AU sponsored it. Admittedly, we did, too, and proceeded to contact American, who got back to us within a day. Asked about the ad’s veracity, spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said her school had nothing to do with it. She explained: “The location on craigslist is defined as ‘American University/Tenleytown’, the same label on the nearby metro stop, thus generating some of the confusion.” Additionally, “the ad refers to a for-profit college; AU is a nonprofit institution."

Well, even if American didn’t place the ad, would they at least consider letting desperate copyeditors double as security guards? “No,” Csellar asserted, “The safety and security of the entire AU community is of the utmost importance to the university. In that regard, AU's security officers receive eight weeks of training and are certified by the Metropolitan Police Department as University Police Officers.” Csellar also said that the posting hadn’t hurt AU’s job recruiting.

So if American University didn’t put up this ad, then who did? A likely candidate seems to be Potomac College, a part-time, private school based in Herndon, Virginia, and, yes, Tenleytown. Gelf contacted Potomac, but they haven’t responded. Perhaps their communications staffers were busy protecting students.

Photo courtesy Brad & Sabrina's Flickr.

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