After graduating from university, I landed a job managing website content for a TV station. But, two years on, I saw no way to progress at work so decided to take a year off to travel in Asia.
I had calculated on the back of an envelope that my savings would cover me for at least a year yet, only three months into my travels, I found myself in Thailand with a maxed out credit card and a shortage of funds.
Most people would have been panicking about flying home or begging for their old job back but, rather than get all worked up, I decided to take a trip to the nearby shopping mall with hopes that a change in scenery would brighten my outlook.
I arranged to meet an expat friend at the mall for lunch to ask for advice but, before I could tell him of my predicament, he spotted somebody he knew, and who looked relieved to see a friendly face.
I was promptly introduced to the friend of my friend who apologized if he seemed a bit distracted. He was an investor in an English language newspaper whose Managing Editor had resigned and left them without anyone to complete their next issue.
Sensing an opportunity, I asked if he was looking for somebody to help out while they looked for a replacement. I had done lots of writing in university and, as a native English speaker, had a good grasp of the language, so suggested I might be a practical option given the urgent situation.
Without skipping a beat, he replied, “Well you’re in the right place, at the right time and you’ve got the right attitude. Do you want to come visit our offices for an interview now?”
The interview turned out to be a quick tour of the office as I detailed my work and writing experience. A few minutes after we started talking, he smiled before handing over a large pile of articles marked for urgent editing as he congratulated me saying, “I’m appointing you temporary Desk Editor, which means you need to put this week’s issue to bed in the next 48 hours. Consider this your probation period.”
Not only was I the sole foreigner in a team of ten Thai journalists and designers, but I was essentially in charge of the newspaper until a longer term solution was found.
And so, through a baptism of fire, I learned how to format news articles, edit and layout a newspaper and personally create several regular columns as we managed to meet seemingly impossible deadlines, week after week, with increasing success.
This proved to be a great time in my life during which I launched my writing and media career. I became addicted to the news cycle of weekly print runs and long nights in the office. I loved the work and I lived to write!
Aside from receiving a decent salary, I began to get inquiries from other publications asking me to freelance for them after word began spreading of my wide ranging output as a writer and columnist.
Over a period of a year and a half, I wrote and edited hundreds of articles, features and news stories, not only for the newspaper, but also for a growing number of corporate clients, trade publications and property magazines.
Thanks to writing, I paid off my credit card, and built up a network of useful contacts while helping turn my employer’s newspaper from a loss-making business into a profitable enterprise.
Eventually, we found a suitable candidate to become the permanent Managing Editor and, despite being offered a new position, I decided the time was right for me to continue my travels…although now I was able to fund them with my freelance income instead of my savings.
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Steven King has worked for 12 years in the media industry having been employed as a newspaper editor, dining out columnist, community news reporter, freelance property writer and PR copywriter. He has spent the last 10 years living, working and writing across Southeast Asia.
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