Chris O’Neal: Becoming a Journalist through the Classified Ads

Image found on LinkedIn

Image found on LinkedIn

Chris O’Neal was like many college students after graduating from a 4 year institution, unsure and open to possibilities. After graduating with a degree in English and emphasis in creative writing, O’Neal began the process of marking up the classified ads in newspapers scouting for a job more suitable than his retail life. O’Neal states,

“I stumbled upon a listing for a video game reviewer and sent in my resume and a sample. I was hired as a freelancer and did that column for a few years (and still do) before being picked up to do more newsworthy articles. Eventually, I was doing features and regular columns. I guess I could say that after about three years, I realized that I enjoyed writing more than being a retail jockey and so I applied for, and received, a full time position as a journalist.”

O’Neal began his freelance career in 2009 with the VC Reporter. He continued to grow in the industry by writing for several other magazines and online publications in the Los Angeles area in the years that followed, before finding his voice at the VC Reporter permanently.

“I hired him in 2012, as a staff writer,” said Michael Sullivan, Editor at the VC Reporter. “His writing is coherent and interesting. We aim for all of our articles to meet those standards.”

Even though O’Neal wishes he could be a traveling food writer and fly away in a private jet, he is living the dream for many other journalist. Attending the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) at the Los Angeles Convention Center every year, O’Neal finds himself among the new and current markets providing ground breaking and never before seen technology.

“His column “The Gamer’s Notebook” is consistently entertaining and informative,” said Michel Miller, VC Reporter Arts Editor. She emphasis the contribution O’Neal gave to the freelance team back in 2012 and how his writing consists of a rare combination that most do not start off with.

“If I could tell 10-year-old me what I’d be doing at 30, he might freak out with happiness,” said O’Neal.

Picking up a read by Michael Pollan titled “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, O’Neal continues to be influenced by other writers and redirect the way he himself approaches articles.

Jonathan Gold has always been a favorite. I’ve recently written a few food reviews and I try to emulate the personable tone he achieves in his articles. My somewhat recent article on ramen in Ventura County was inspired by Gold’s review of Daikokuya in Little Tokyo, LA.,” said O’Neal.

O’Neal emphasizes that being a well rounded journalist means to seek knowledge, not only truth. A daily intake of newspapers, blogs, or magazine articles will help you pick up stylistic tricks and learn various ways to express yourself. He says, “Eventually, you’ll develop your own voice. Also, know the city you wish to be successful in. It might sound boring (and it very much is), but knowing who the mayor is, all the way down to who runs the parks services, will give you a head start on your competition. It’s also good to know these people to develop relationships with them, in any industry. It feels nice to be able to pick up the phone and call someone immediately with a question without having to Google who does what.”

As a VC Reporter staff writer, he had to know the local council members and trivia information that surrounds the small county of Ventura. Due to VC Reporter’s requirements that staff members must be locals to be considered as candidates, O’Neal held a steady chance by being an alumni from the local university Cal State University of Channel Islands. He continues to grow in the knowledge that surrounds Ventura, as well as extend his voice by picking up various articles and columns.

O’Neal writers anywhere from local news of the week to gaming and the media. His most recent article “Ahoy!” dealt with historical tall ships returning to Ventura and Channel Islands Harbor.

“He is more secure in finding and reporting information and knows more people to reference and use in his stories. His writing has always been interesting,” said Sullivan.

Although O’Neal went through college without ever thinking about pursuing a career in journalism or writing for a publication like the VC Reporter, he continues to strive and make a name for himself. Beginning as a freelance writer to transitioning as a full-time staff member, he leaves an encouraging word to all college students finding their voice, “make note of what intrigues you and emulate that”.


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