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Is it worth it?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by OgCritty, May 29, 2014.

  1. OgCritty

    OgCritty New Member

    Hey all,

    So I'm having a bit of a career crisis and was wondering if some of you vets out there could offer some advice.

    I'm a 22-year-old recent college grad looking for a job. I've interned in the sports department of two major metro's (both are in the top-30 nationally in circulation) and ran the sports section at my school paper while covering both the football and men's basketball beat. I've also completed an internship at one other smaller paper, and written for some online sites I'm sure at least some of you have heard of.

    And after devoting the last few years of my life to becoming a sports journalist, I find myself unemployed just a few weeks after graduation with very few job prospects in journalism. I've already proven that I can cover high-profile events for noteworthy publications, but most of the full-time jobs that would consider hiring someone with my level of experience are in remote locations and cover a few local high schools. Not to mention, the pay is brutal.

    I'm not opposed to taking a miserable first job out of college and working my way up. That's the way it is nowadays and I understand most people have to go that route. But my family has strong ties to the financial sector, and I have no doubt that eventually I'd be able to secure a job in finance with decent pay and job security. I want to be a journalist, but I've read so many negative things about sports journalism on this site that it's genuinely scaring me away. Why would I waste years of my life working my way up just to deal with getting laid off when I'm 35 and have a wife and kid to take care of?

    I've had some really incredible experiences being a journalist, but is the outlook of this business reliable enough that I should devote the next several years of my life to it in hopes that it improves? Or should I just think of sports journalism as something I did for fun while in school, but not as a viable career path?

    Any advice is genuinely appreciated.
  2. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    The fact that you're even asking this (and I don't mean this in a bad way...) leads me to say no.

    If you were sitting here saying, "I can't imagine doing anything else, this is what I've wanted to do since I was a kid. I don't mind paying my dues or working for nextg to nothing... This is my dream..." Well, that might be a diferent conversation.

    You're smart to be thinking about this now.

    Nothing about this business is reliable. I read somewhere that somewhere between 33-40 percent of all paid journalists in this country lost their jobs sometime between 2006-2012. I am one of the people on here who falls into that group and there are countless others as well.

    Can you succeed in sports journalism? Sure... But it's a lot harder now than it was 10-15 years ago and it wasn't that easy then.

    Good luck in your decision.
  3. valpo87

    valpo87 Guest

    First off, patience. I didn't get my first job until three or four months after graduating. That first job was a weekly with less than 10,000 circulation. I moved to another paper, terminated and waited a year before I am at my current position.

    Yes, it is tough and you may never get to be the big, daily sports writer. But if you love something enough and it makes you happy, keep pushing forward. I am in the camp that hard work is noticed and rewarded. There will be people on this board who say you are better off taking the job within your family's connections for better pay and benefits.

    Life is too short to work in a job that you don't love. If you do, you will be miserable and you will night hate yourself for not being a writer (even if it means working at smaller papers).

    I dreamed of being a Chicago Bears writer after college. Five years later, I'm at a weekly paper and the growing certainty that if I don't advance to a daily paper soon, I will never be a serious consideration for the bigger papers (based on advice from an older reporter). But I know I am happier being a journalist because I love what I do. I may never be a millionaire, but that's not why I do it. The minute you pursue the Almighty Dollar, you let yourself lose the ability to enjoy what you do.
  4. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Incorrect. This is not how it is nowadays. This is how it was 20 or 30 or 40 years ago. Nowadays it is you take that first miserable job and then you go to other jobs that are also miserable, only slightly less so. Even the "dream job" you might be thinking about will pay very poorly, in an area with a high cost of living.

    I don't mean to dampen valpo's enthusiasm, but I've said it here many times and most people my age (40+) agree: Money doesn't matter, until it does. Unfortunately for too many people in the business, by the time money matters it's because they are married with children and they spend months or years miserable because of everything they can't do and the fact that they are on the wrong side of 30 without the educational or work history to make a leap.

    The "we never got in this for the money" cliche is oft-used, and misused. I'd agree I wasn't looking to get rich in journalism. But I had every expectation of a good middle-class (or upper-middle-class?) life, and for 15 years the field met those expectations. My journalism degree was an excellent investment financially, emotionally, socially, any way you want to judge it.

    In your case, you'd have to beat the odds by a pretty large degree just to get to middle class. You won't be able to buy a house. Your wife won't have the option of taking time off when kids come along. You'll never be in the school district you want. If the transmission or the dryer conks out, that's going to be huge stress.

    I can't assess how much you love the business and how much you're willing to sacrifice for it. I can tell you there's no good life waiting if you pay your dues now.
  5. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    This is all great advice. Word for word...
  6. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    The short answer is, no, it isn't worth it. I spent just about 30 years in the newspaper business before being downsized for the last time. I can't think of anything on earth that would make me go back to it.

    I spent the last four-plus of those years at one of the largest newspapers in the country, the kind that most consider a "destination" paper. It was, as LTL put it, miserable. The worst part was always looking over your shoulder, waiting for the next round of cuts everyone knew was coming.

    That's no way to live. If you can find something else to do that makes you happy, or at least content, you're probably better off doing it.
  7. Geeze. Every time I begin to get comfortable and back into that mindset that "I love my job and as long as I love doing this, everything else will work out", one of these threads pop up and I read all the responses and then doubt starts to creep in.

    My question is: What aspect of the job makes it miserable? Is it the pay and hours or the job itself?
  8. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member


    I feel your pain. Many of us some years older are asking the same questions. Like some of the others, I started out at a smaller paper --- at least it was a daily --- and moved to several others of varying sizes. Never got the dream job or big break, despite years of experience, sacrifice and some really good work along the way.

    So if you take the small town job with the dreams of making it to a bigger place, great. But be realistic and understand that it may or may not pan out and it may involved factors beyond your control. Yes, plenty of good people get laid off. But that happens in other industries, too. (This being a journalism board, you read about those layoffs most frequently.)

    If, on the other hand, you have a good opportunity in another field that pays well, there's no shame in taking that. You can still freelance and/or do part-time stuff as the opportunities present. It may not be covering an NFL beat. It most likely would be covering preps or small colleges or helping out in the office on busy nights. But I've done all of those as well.

    Bottom line, it's YOUR life and it really comes down to what you value most. Only you can make those decisions.
  9. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    The pay, the hours, the near-certainty of layoffs and collapses, the ever-changing responsibilities and ever-increasing demands without any increase in pay.
  10. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Jim, I would guess for most it's the pay and the hours. Especially if you have a family and always work nights or travel a lot. I suspect most enjoy the nuts and bolts of the job itself, or else would have bailed long ago.

    One of the sad parts of the equation is that it's an employer's market and even long-time employees have little or no leverage when it comes to bargaining for anything. If you don't like doing something, they're quick to remind of the stack of 100 resumes on their desk eager to take your place.

    I do wonder if there is a website FastFoodWorkers.com and if they have the same discussions. (Yeah, I know, most journalists have invested a ton more time and money on education, etc.)
  11. Morris816

    Morris816 Member

    My advice would be to ask yourself if you are dead set on your long-term lifestyle plans and then decide which job prospects will best allow you to enjoy that lifestyle.

    If you want to live in a bigger city, you will want to find a job that will allow you to afford the cost of living in that city. Needless to say, there aren't that many jobs in journalism that will allow you a salary to raise a family and quickly obtain good housing in big cities where cost of living is often high.

    On the other hand, if you aren't dead set on the lifestyle you want to have five to 10 years down the road, then you might be able to find options in smaller communities, where you may not get a big salary, but the cost of living is lower. A smaller community isn't for everyone, but I've had mostly good experiences living in them, and while the pay isn't the greatest thing, it's a salary that still allows me to afford a good place to live and put food on the table.

    I will add, though, that I'm not married, so if you intend on marriage and a family, there is that to consider.

    But it all depends on where you see yourself in the long term as far as family and community goes, to determine which career path is better for you.
  12. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    That about covers it.

    The one factor that soured me the most as I grew up was the hours. Too much happening on the weekends for me to want to be working anymore.
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