I’m leaving teaching & returning to reporting

betty ming liu Writing how-to's 56 Comments

The good news is that I just landed a full-time journalism job! As for the bad news: I have given up all of my teaching gigs. At least, for now…

I guess you want to hear about the job first. Early next year, Newsday, one of the country’s leading newspapers, is starting up a hyperlocal news website for Westchester County, N.Y. As with all things hyperlocal, there will no printed page for readers. Welcome to the world of digital journalism, where your daily fix will originate online rather than on paper.

A team is being assembled for this new website and I’m one of the lucky new reporters. Since I live in Westchester County, I look forward to covering the home turf while working mostly from home. I’m also thrilled and grateful to find a cutting-edge, full-time journalism job, especially in this economy. By the way, did I mention that my daughter’s getting ready for college — and that I’m getting ready to pay tuition bills? Haha.

Speaking of college, I am so, so sad about saying goodbye to my teaching gigs. From the time I was a teenager, my dream was to teach. During the past seven years, I’ve had the privilege of being in classrooms at five different universities in various departments and programs. They were all part-time jobs; there were crazy moments when I was running between as many as four campuses in a single semester.

But what intoxicating variety. I loved the challenge of adapting to each school’s culture and meeting such a wide range of students. They varied in age from 14 to 70. They came to me from all over the world. My adult students worked in more professionals than I can name. Everyone opened me up to new ideas that I otherwise never would’ve considered.

That’s the real thrill of teaching — I was always learning. So if you’re a former student and you’re reading this now, I want to thank you for trusting me with your life and your stories. I count you among the best teachers I’ve ever had. Once I figure out my work schedule, I’d love to get back in the classroom for the occasional night class.

Until then, I’m looking ahead to a 2012 filled with insane changes…

Imagine, I’m 55 and haven’t had a full-time journalism job in 16 years. Then again, I’ve been blogging, tweeting and endlessly foraging online. Who knew that these explorations would help get me back in the game?

So now I’m ready to find my “mo jo” — mobile journalism. That’s the buzzword for today’s on-the-go, 21st century approach to reporting. Forget about the olden days of racing back to the newsroom to file a story. Instead, try an image of reporters out there on the scene, tapping their articles into their iPads while uploading video and photos shot on their iPhones.

Even though I’m kinda nervous, I feel prepared to work my ancient butt off. I hope you’ll stick around for the adventure. No doubt, these new experiences will lead to some interesting blog posts. I will share whatever I learn to keep a virtual classroom going. And if you have story ideas for me, please get in touch! Together, we can find a collective mojo.   xo.

P.S. — If you want more details on the hyperlocal, here’s a copy of the memo that was sent to Newsday staffers yesterday.

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Comments 56

  1. Erika Siobahn Kenny

    YAY BETTY!!! Congratulations! And don’t worry- even if you’re not in a classroom, you’re still teaching by example and with your blog. You’re such an inspiration to so many people, what you teach with what you say and do is a most valuable lesson =’)

  2. Jill

    Best luck there, Betty!!! Good for you!!! My hometown newspaper always & first employer, always deep in my heart. Look forward to all the latest here on the blog!

  3. Post
    betty ming liu

    toby, you’re going to make me cry some more! and you hit on the financial reality of adjuncting. so, it’s back to work — and i’m very, very lucky to have found an exciting job opportunity. but thank you for your comment because you are reminding me that someday, i need to get back to the classroom. it has my heart & it always will.

  4. toby

    Betty: I would really like to sincerely congratulate you on landing this journalism position – I really, really would – because I’m personally happy for your happiness – I’d like to….but I can not. I know what a superb teacher you are – I know what a profound effect you had on Billy and what an inspiration you have been to him and your other students and as someone who myself spent 30 years in the classroom, I mourn the loss of a gift such as yours to the profession. I know you must do what you must do and life as academic day-labor (adjunct faculty) is no picnic – nor does it pay a living wage. These considerations must in the end trump all else. However I can not feel other than sad that this is so and more than anything, I consider it a condemnation of our system of higher education that you have been, at least for now, lost to it.

  5. Post
    betty ming liu

    rose, we’re 55 but we’re not old! young is really a state of mind. the other day, i had lunch with a 70-something friend who runs a very successful garden design business. she’s says that the older she gets, the more she has to keep changing — just the opposite of conventional wisdom.

    and laura, good question. i started blogging three years ago at the suggestion of my former new york daily news boss, jim willse. at the time, he was running the newark star-ledger & i wanted to be a columnist for him. he said that the thing to do was carve out a niche for myself online first — develop a brand + traffic. once i did that, there was no limit to my future.

    so yes, i initially blogged in hopes of becoming journalistically relevant. but then, the blog took on a life of its own. and that’s another blog post for another day!

  6. Rose T. Ellis

    What an inspiration you are Betty, in so many ways! THANK YOU for having the courage to pursue your passions, and in turn, inspiring this 55 year old to continue doing the same. I look forward to upcoming chapters!

  7. Post
    betty ming liu

    oh, now you guys are going to make me cry…

    andrea, i’ll never forget the first day you showed up in my new school classroom with your big, worried eyes. now look at you — you’re a communications pro and a social media expert running a major website!

    and mary, thank you for being my wonderful boss, mentor & friend. back in 2004, nyu became my 1st teaching gig because you took a chance on me. when i walked into your office, i was a scared, single mom coping with divorce. i had ZERO teaching experience — and hadn’t worked in journalism for nearly 10 years! but you told me you had a good feeling about me. then you showed me what a syllabus looked like. with nyu on my resume, i had the street cred to chase the other gigs. thanks for believing in me!

  8. mary


    I am thrilled for you on a personal level. You have become a digital guru, sharing your skills with both students and faculty alike. I am not surprised that Newsday spotted a great hire, with both new media skills and the talents and tenacity of a long-time journalist.

    That said, we will miss you terribly at NYU Journalism. You were one of the best adjuncts we’ve ever had here as evidenced by winning a university “Great teaching” award a few years ago. Your students were always among the best prepared when they came into the next level course that I teach. You compiled a treasure trove of teaching tips over the years and were always more than willing to share them at both our adjunct meetings and one-on-one with other profs.

    My best wishes for the new job. Excelsior!

  9. Andrea

    Congratulations, Betty! You are such a force of inspiration! Thank you for your teaching. You are one of the best teachers I have ever had. Thanks to you, I found my way back into the writing game… in a foreign language for me, nonetheless. So, cheers to you – and hope to see you soon in Westchester. I can so imagine you dashing around the county, poking your nose into the city’s backyard for a lead… wildly tapping away at your iPad ;-)

  10. Post
    betty ming liu

    what are you all doing up so early??! :)

    bigwowo, thanks — i’m feeling less sad this morning. thankfully, the internet offers countless ways to stay in touch with former students…and to find new ways to teach/learn.

    and sree, i’m sure you’re right that my blog is going to get stronger. being an old lady in the new world will be a trip. i also must thank you for everything you taught me about social media. you are the master and your columbia j-school continuing education workshop offerings are a godsend to us all.

    kellie, we need to talk. anyone & everyone with a westchester link is now a potential source. as soon as the semester ends next week, i will be getting reorganized. which reminds me…i must start reading aol.com’s patch website. even though its resources are limited, a neighbor told me yesterday that she considers it my top competition for her attention.

  11. Kellie Brooks

    Yowza, Betty! Congratulations! What a major decision…I wonder if it was a no-brainer, or if you weighed it out? 2012 is bringing changes for everyone I know and clearly, you are no exception. I see this as just another opportunity for you to learn something, and then eventually share that wisdom, as you do already, so generously.
    There’s a chance I may be working in Westchester, on a part time basis, so I’ll keep my ear to the ground – and will certainly tune into Newsday online to follow you! Best of luck!

  12. Sree

    Betty: Congrats! Your students’ loss is your readers’ gain. Am sure you’ll be able to teach again in the future. All good wishes. Thanks for sharing so well.

    cheers, sree

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