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Trying to decide if I'm suited for journalism!

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Leaver?, Dec 12, 2007.

  1. Leaver?

    Leaver? New Member

    Hi folks, don’t mean to disrespectful to anyone who is committed to journalism for life but I’m considering leaving the business completely and I’m wondering have many of you done it? Or considering it? Or is it something we all think about from time to time ;D
    I’m in late twenties and I love the job from the point of meeting incredible people, being privileged to see great athletes and my name in print but lately I’ve become a bit disillusioned with it all.
    One part of me is saying don’t give up on your dream, it’s all I ever wanted to do, but the other side of that is I don’t know if this business fits with the life I want to have.
    I know a lot of you guys have families, homes etc but as things are I’m a long way from achieving that, and I need to improve things.
    The business and the career path hasn’t turned out quite as I planned, I have a reporting job but I feel like I’ve hit a wall, and it ain’t easy to get around it.
    I’ve spoken about this with a couple of trusted colleagues elsewhere in the business and they are genuinely surprised by the way in which I’m thinking.
    According to them and even people at management level I am a talented writer and I get good stories, and perhaps I’m overly cynical but in this business that doesn’t seem to matter
    I have close to nine years experience as a staff journalist.
    To those of you who left how did you find it?
    My reasons include
    - The lack of job security in the business as seen by layoffs/cutbacks elsewhere.
    - Companies don’t actually seem to care about journalists, in the whole chain of command people who write seem to be easily replacible.
    -Hours don’t fit with a ‘normal’ life, families, kids etc.
    -People who are twenty years my senior are telling me do something else, journalism is dead.
    -Without being too arrogant I don’t necessarily want to be like the above, struggling to get by financially.
    -I’ve realised that money and having a secure job does actually matter, I don’t want lots of money just enough to be comfortable.
    -The opportunities to get promoted in this game is slim compared to the career I’m considering.
    -While some very talented journalists get promoted, there seems to be a lot of nepotism in this game.
    -The feeling I get is newspapers want to squeeze as much out of you as possible, and there will always be younger, cheaper, more enthusiastic people following. I’m starting to see another generation coming up behind me.
    -Although you may be a good writer, that doesn’t matter to the bean counters and they will probably take a bit of pleasure from employing a cheaper replacement.
    -People who work as journalists at the ‘top’ end of the market are getting squeezed out.
    -If I change careers my working week will not be that much shorter, but it will be more structured suited to ‘normal’ family life.
    Reading back I didn’t plan on depressing you all but I’d like it if a few people could pick me up on the points above..
    Thank you
  2. PHINJ

    PHINJ Active Member

    It sounds like you've made up your mind.
  3. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    Check the thread about the USA Today basketball people getting bought out. I think you'll find that the best way to have a long career in journalism is to be married to someone with a job that pays a lot of money or have a lot of family money to fall back on.
    These are the realities of journalism. It's a great job, but a sketchy career.
  4. FishHack76

    FishHack76 Active Member

    I think you would find many journalists out there with the same thoughts.
    I don't think you're being overly cynical. I think you're being realistic. Also, I think things obviously change when you go from your 20's to your 30's. In your 20's, you don't mind working 21 straight days or consecutive 12-hour days, but I've felt like as I've gotten a little older, that stuff wears on you. The lack of pay - which I also equate to lack of respect - wears on you no matter how talented and skilled you are. The lack of caring from some companies about their employees and their contents wears on you. You mention "replacable" a couple of times. I feel like that is the attitude of some companies. I think that attitude is part of the reason why newspapers are struggling. Some writers/editors/photographers aren't that easily replaced. Content matters. Some people aren't that stupid. They can see they are getting less for their money.
    You have valid concerns - wanting to spend time with your family/wife/girlfriend, and wanting "normal" hours. Frankly, you don't get much respect when you work nights.
    I left a reporting job, went freelance and have since come back to a part-time desk job to help make ends meet while I look for something else.
    In my situation, I looked down the road. There were certain things I wanted out of life, and I knew that newspapers couldn't provide them in all likelihood. I wanted more security. I'm a pretty simple guy. I'm not really materialistic. I don't need a lot of extravagant things, but I wanted the means to buy a house/condo or maybe a boat or whatever else. This business wasn't going to get me there.
    I knew I didn't want to be a beat writer. My moment of realization was at a NASCAR event when I saw all these reporters sit in this building and rarely, if ever, leave. They just waited for the next press release or the next press conference. I just imagined those people doing that for 40 weeks of the year for the next 20, 30 and 40 years.
    I also wanted to write long-form feature stories and given the state of the industry, there's less value placed on those stories right now.
    I also looked to my future wife and family, and I wanted to be there for them. I didn't want to miss out on that.
    I hate to get simple, but you really do have to follow your heart or your gut or whatever it is you follow. You can't follow anyone else's path. People will say what they will say. You can't listen to them. You have to listen to yourself and the other close people in your life.
    There are some days I regret leaving a little bit, but I'm a lot less disgruntled than I used to be.
  5. I've started this thread, in some variation, a couple of times. I know what you're talking about when it comes to other people's surprise that you have these thoughts. I've gotten that, too. What I struggle most with is this question: "Is being a sports writer what I do? Or is it who I am?" I don't know the answer. Obviously there's only one way to find out - leave the field and see how I feel. But if it actually is "who I am," then I don't want to regret the move for the rest of my life. It's scary.

    The money thing does catch up with you. We're around the same age. I struggle with it, because how do you tell guys you work with who have been making ends meet and think they have a pretty good life that their life isn't good enough for you. No matter how I try to frame it, that's what it seems to come back to. Who am I to tell this guy I don't make enough money? How greedy is that going to come off?

    "Live within your means," people will tell you.

    But then I read stories about the job market and people having to "settle for" construction jobs and so forth paying "just" $40,000 a year, and I want to vomit. Obviously the rewards in this business aren't just tied into the money, which leads to a lot of guilt about it, especially when you get to this age and friends are going on vacations and putting in pools, etc., etc.

    I don't necessarily agree with PHINJ that you've made up your mind. I think you're struggling, like I often have, to the annoyance of people on here occasionally, even (probably rightfully so - I can be pretty angsty). You're like me - there's nothing you would rather do, in theory. But in reality, the path to success - financial and otherwise - just doesn't seem to be there.

    Good luck.
  6. I'm grappling with a lot of the same issues you are. In my situation, though, I'm in my late 20s, with two kids, and the hours are starting to take their toll on the family life and the marriage in general.

    I love the business, always have, but the more day-to-day B.S. I see and put up with at work and the bleak future often discussed on these boards really has me looking to another profession as a day job.

    I'm a writer, and the way I look at it is I can be something else and still write. Whether it's freelancing, trying to write a book or something else, the lack of respect, as a previous poster put it, doesn't seem like it's going to change anytime soon.
  7. trifectarich

    trifectarich Well-Known Member

    You don't say you love to write, share great stories with readers, demonstrate your creativity, etc.

    Sounds as though you ought to go do something you're passionate about. You're still young enough to find your true calling.
  8. imjustagirl2

    imjustagirl2 New Member

    I'm in the same boat, oddly. I have a great job, work with great people, and I'm lucky beyond belief.

    But I don't "love" journalism. I don't get the rush others get. I don't have a burning competitiveness to "beat" everyone else. I don't like 24 hours of being connected to my job. I don't feel like it's what I was born to do...I feel like it's something I've chosen to do. And I'm wondering if I should choose something different.

    I just don't know what, since this is all I've ever done.
  9. captzulu

    captzulu Member

    I'm in my late 20s, and I left the biz a couple years ago, for basically the same reasons you listed. I LOVED journalism, and even at the time I left, I still loved the craft, but the business side of it made it pretty easy to leave. All the points you brought up are perfectly legitimate, and I've felt them all.

    My advice:

    1. Identify what it is about your newspaper job that you enjoy, the things that have kept you in the biz. Then, figure out if you can find those things in the new career you're considering. If so, that leaves you with really no reason to stay. If not, figure out how much those things matter to you in comparison to other important things like time with family and financial security. And keep in mind that what you lose as far as job enjoyment can be made up in what you gain in those other areas. You'll just have to decide if the gain outweighs the loss. Personally, I do miss what I did in journalism; sometimes I miss it a lot, but no, I don't regret leaving newspaper one bit when I think about all that I've gained (more time with family and friends, a job where I feel appreciated by the people I work for, not having to build my life around a sports team's schedule, etc.).

    2. As far as job security goes, ironically, I survived newspaper layoffs only to be laid off in the first non-newspaper job I got (though I immediately found another), which makes me think that in some ways, job security is more of an illusion. That said, while it's hard to predict the fortunes of an individual company, in terms of an entire industry, I've seen few other fields where every company in the industry is downsizing. And when you consider that some of these companies are downsizing despite 20% profit margins, that does make non-newspaper jobs look more secure.

    3. When you're evaluating your newspaper job vs. the new career you're considering, leave thoughts like "noble profession" out of it. Many journalists do get the sense that they're working in a noble profession, myself included, but in the end, how much of that is just a perception within the profession? Does the public think what we do is noble? And if we looked at what we do from a different perspective, could you not argue that we're but pawns who slave for penny-pinching corporations that are destroying the ideals of the profession just to make an extra buck? In fact, it looks even worse if you consider that we KNOW we're working for such companies, and yet we keep working our butts off, which in turn lets those companies off the hook b/c they don't suffer the consequences of their actions. Our hard work is making it possible for these companies to continue flushing journalism down the toilet. Is there any nobility in that? Of course, I prefer to see journalism in a better light, but I just raised that to make a point. Besides, journalism hardly has a monopoly on worthwhile careers.
  10. Smartwriter

    Smartwriter Member

    I actually left the business for almost a year to work at a trade publication in a major metropolitan area. During that time I covered a couple of football games in my area for papers near my hometown and enjoyed that.
    I then went to help a company start a weekly suburban paper in the same area and once that got going I took a job at a small daily in a smaller metropolitan area closer to family.
    I, too, don't feel a burning desire to "beat" everyone on a story. I'm out of sports now and have a better schedule, but there are days when I wouldn't mind having the schedule, the better pay and the better life outside of work.
  11. Cansportschick

    Cansportschick Active Member

    Someone advised me long ago that you need enthusiasm and passion to be in the journalism business because it can be a feast or famine.

    Leaver?, if you lack the passion and enthusiasm, then you need to look at a career that will satisfy you in these ways.

    Also, I understand your points. The thing is journalism is an everchanging world. There is always layoffs and cuts. You also have to make sacrifices if you want to have success in this field and that includes your personal life. I was taught and advised this early in my journalism schooling and also from people in the field. You also have to work your way up, sometimes for years until that big break comes along.

    I just think that you need to figure out what is more important to you, but if you are not passionate or enthusiastic about it and the points you illustrate are more important to you at this point in time, then journalism is not for you.
  12. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I'd get out tomorrow if I found a job with decent hours that paid the same or close.

    It's tough when you have a family.

    Tougher when the bean counters don't seem to have the foggiest clue or care about what havoc they are wreaking.

    Hell, if you still want to do journalism, you can sit in your basement and blog and will probably be able to compete with the local paper for readers in about five years if things keep going this way.
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