I never wanted to be a journalist. What was there to love about hiding my opinion in a coating of bland and serving it with a side of “why do I care”? But when a position opened up at the University newspaper, I applied. At the time, I was working for campus dining services, which was quickly sucking my soul away. I wanted to be challenged at work. Besides, being a reporter would mean I would get paid to write. Not only that, but my work would be published and people would read it.
I got the job.
I didn’t know AP style going into it, but I was determined to get it right. But what I quickly learned was that I didn’t hate journalism for the reasons I thought. I ended up hating for a whole sea of others.
To understand why this job frustrated me, you must know that I have a strong sense of obligation and a perfectionist’s conscience. If I imagined some expectations my editors had for me, I imagined the expectations I had for myself. It turns out my expectations are far higher and my editors were poor communicators. When my sources were not returning calls or refusing to be interviewed, I told my editors. When they wouldn’t respond, I immediately assumed the worst.
I also hated the job because so much of it was out of my hands. Articles relied on others to be complete. I am no expert, so I found and interviewed people who were, or at least proposed to be. However, when I was unable to connect with the people I need to, articles did not get written. When articles didn’t get written, I didn’t get paid.
There’s another thing; my paycheck depended on completed work, which was sometimes out of my hands.
I also learned that a lot of people don’t take a college female very seriously. I may not know all the ins and outs of the business, or the proper etiquette but I am intelligent.
By the end of my time as a news reporter, I found all of my inspiration was gone. Though I never wanted to be a journalist in any serious sense, I did believe in journalism as a function. In my opinion, the news is supposed to act as a regulator on society. Journalists find the bullshit, find the exploitation, find the general wrongs in a community and tell their fellows about it. Journalism can also be used to promote the good. Overall, media and news has a powerful place and should be used responsibly. I respect that authority. But there I was, working for a so-called newspaper that had me writing articles about the moon bounce on the quad. I got to the point where I could not have cared less.
Though I was writing, getting published, and people recognized my name, my soul felt just as dry as it had when I worked in a dining center. I realized there was something wrong with that. Sure, learning more about journalism could and has helped hone my writing craft, but I want the writing that I do to be inspired. Writing should happen because it needs to. If it doesn’t need to, why bother wasting my time? I think my work will benefit more from walking away than from sticking it out in a job that really does feel like a job.
So although the newspaper has reduced me to a frustrated, disenchanted and underestimated person, I have learned something valuable. Sometimes it’s healthier to walk away.