Career Crossroads: Media Veteran Talks New and Exciting Challenges After 40 Years in Journalism
A faded copy of the New York Times sits by Mark Hamrick’s desk. The lead story is about a development that happened during the Iran-Contra Affair; President Ronald Reagan just named three to examine the operations of the National Security Council.
Former Senator John G. Tower was to head the panel. In the photo is Tower and a young Hamrick, who was captured near the senator, thanks to the rapid-fire shooting of an Associated Press photographer.
The date was Nov. 27, 1986.
Today, Hamrick is the senior economic analyst and Washington bureau chief of Bankrate.com. His journalism experience spans an impressive 40-ish years.
As far as pinning down a few major stories that helped define his media career, Hamrick says part of it comes down to “being in places where special events are happening.”
“The thing about radio is you do a story and move on,” he says.
Hamrick served as the platoon leader for AP broadcast. He spent 26 years there, serving as a business editor, anchor, writer, and reporter.
Hamrick proudly recalled one series he worked on with several AP colleagues on immigration. The piece took him to Mexico. At the time, Hamrick was working out of the Dallas bureau.
“Many years later, immigration continues to be a hot-button issue,” he said.
Peach Picking? No Thanks.
Hamrick’s journey began in high school. He grew up in a small town in Kansas.
His father was an Associated Press correspondent and newspaper editor.
One day, his dad encouraged him to consider getting a job, likely picking peaches down the road.
But Hamrick had other plans. He began hanging out at the local radio station.
His grand scheme actually didn’t involve working with the Associated Press. Hamrick admits he initially resisted the opportunity to work in the Kansas City bureau.
Eventually, however, Hamrick gave it a shot and in 1986, he began working with AP Radio in Dallas. A year later, he was transferred to Washington, DC.
“There’s something about the three dimensional aspect of broadcast that I enjoy,” Hamrick said, about his choice to go with broadcast rather than print journalism.
He remembered a pivotal news conference, during Gerald Ford’s presidency in the mid-1970s. Hamrick wasn’t able to go into the room where all the reporters were seated, but he stayed outside of it.
He saw Tom Brokaw.
“When I saw [Brokaw’s] stand-up news piece on that conference, that’s when I knew I wanted to do that,” Hamrick said.
Work Inside and Beyond the Newsroom
To say Hamrick has spent years helping to shape journalism in Washington would put it mildly.
Hamrick spent nine years on the board with the National Press Club. His time there has included serving as membership secretary for three years and board chairman for one.
He was NPC president in 2011.
Today, Hamrick serves as the chair of the press club’s broadcast committee, a group he founded in 2006.
“It’s absolutely one of the most vibrant committees of the organization,” Hamrick said, praising the quality of the people on the committee – folks like Irv Chapman, Washington correspondent with Bloomberg Radio, and Sam Holt, the executive who helped start the public broadcast system.
Hamrick also serves as an officer with the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, which plans to hold its spring conference in May in DC.
And all of that is outside of work.
Hamrick landed at Bankrate.com after he realized it was time to make a change from AP. Hamrick reached out to a senior executive with Bankrate, just as he was starting his search for a new opportunity.
“I didn’t know actually going to Bankrate was an option,” he said. “It didn’t have a presence in Washington at the time.”
That was four years ago.
Covering Personal Finance
Hamrick’s work with Bankrate really has opened up some great opportunities.
In the past few months, Hamrick was able to start a new partnership through CBS Radio News for a couple radio spots on personal finance. The spots are sent to affiliates and aired across the country.
Hamrick also writes a column every other week for New York Daily News.
It’s been important that the content is consistent with the Bankrate brand and name.
“I cover the economy where it intersects politics, but it’s really meant to help people make optimal or better personal financial decisions,” he says. “I love my work here. We’re given the opportunity to do fun and interesting things and innovate.”
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