Menu

My Time at The Indypendent Gave Me a Future in Journalism That I Thought Was Closed to Someone Like Myself

At The Indy, I discovered that you don’t have to be a “professional” journalist to do journalism.

Keating Zelenke May 31

I started writing for The Indypendent because I found out the paper was mostly staffed by volunteers and figured they couldn’t afford to reject me. Despite my bachelor’s degree in journalism, I felt like I left college empty-handed — in fact, so convinced was I of my own deficits that I hardly bothered applying to jobs in journalism after graduation. A temporary job brought me to New York City in the summer of 2023, and since then I’ve been grasping at the air around me in the breathtaking free-fall that is so characteristic of one’s early 20s. 

I felt very small my first summer in Brooklyn. And the peril of moving to one of the most expensive cities in the country with absolutely no financial planning haunted me constantly. With rent due and bills piling up — and my god, who knew the subway was this expensive? — I realized that I didn’t have the luxury to shop around for a job I actually wanted; I would have to take what I could get. I could never take a breath to figure things out. I might be skirting around what I really want, always opting instead for whatever scraps I can get for the rest of my life. 

The financial pressure I faced is one of the reasons The Indy became so important to me while I lived in New York. During the day I worked what were, for the most part, jobs I found dull and tedious — scooping ice cream cones and slinging espresso portafilters — and then researched stories and read through interview transcriptions during my grueling 2 Train commute or crouched over my laptop at night. 

Indy meetings were filled with people exactly like myself: working-class writers and reporters that I could commiserate with.

It also helped, of course, that Indy meetings were filled with people exactly like myself: working-class writers and reporters that I could commiserate with, people who also found a way to chisel out time for working at the paper among all their other responsibilities.

I learned many of lessons while I was at The Indy: how to zero in on one subject in a city as massive as ours; how to knock on doors even when you don’t feel brave; how to conduct an interview with someone who doesn’t speak your language, just to name a few. But most importantly, I discovered that you don’t have to be a “professional” journalist to do journalism. Even though I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be a “real” journalist, I still found opportunities to write stories that meant something to people, and I will forever be grateful that The Indy gave me those opportunities.

All these lessons and more I take into my next job — and yes, this one is a real journalism job, precisely the kind that a year ago, I never imagined I’d get. And that is thanks in no small part to the work I put in at The Indy, and the editors like John Tarleton and Amba Guerguerian that helped me grow while I was there. 

Click here to see articles by Keating Zelenke. For more first-person testimonials, click here. For more about The Indypendent, click here.

The Indypendent is a New York City-based newspaper, website and weekly radio show. All of our work is made possible by readers like you. During this holiday season, please consider making a recurring or one-time donation today or subscribe to our monthly print edition and get every copy sent straight to your home. 

Where Can I Buy Ivermectin