Is it Time to Quit This Disappointing Paper? Or Is it Time to Quit The Entire Industry?
“Oh, and the pay is lousy. I made more money waiting tables.”
This is another chapter in a series of sad stories from disenchanted journalists as they look at their careers and it dawns on them, “This ain’t going to get any better, is it?”
Mr. Grimm, a Gannett editor recruiter gets these. Some of the letters, I suspect, are coming from reporters who have hopes of getting out of their personal hell hole and joining Gannett. Then they really don’t get it do they? Any Gannetters want to give the shmuck some advice?
Q. I graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism in May at 30. I had worked odd jobs and even owned two pet stores before getting married and deciding to go college.
I was editor of my college newspaper, where I was featured on Romenesko a few times. I won both the Hearst Award and a Scripps-Howard scholarship, the latter naming me one of the top-10 college journalists in the country. I graduated top of my class with all the kudos you would expect.
My future seemed bright, and the stories I wrote during this period, the ones which earned me respect, were in the form of lengthy, deeply narrative, literary journalism. I saw myself becoming the next Charlie LeDuff of New York Times fame, embedding myself into the lives of others and then telling their stories with passion and care.
Then I entered the “professional” world of journalism.
I’ve been at a daily with a circulation of 30,000 for three months, and I’m going through the toughest time of my life. My beat is enormous because the paper employs six journalists to cover nearly a third of a state, and we are expected not to have any overtime. So, I cram 60 hours worth of work into 40 hours. I’ve never been a hard-news junkie, so cops, courts, city councils and so on are new to me and bland. With my workload, it is hard to educate myself on what I now realize is typically the focus of a daily.
This week, I’ve barely eaten, and all my free head space is filled with dread and doubt. My wife is worried about me. I have student loans looming. I must earn a living, I hate this job. I feel overwhelmed at every turn, and worst of all, I worry I have painted myself into a corner by striving so hard to be good at something no one will hire me to do.
I’m thinking about going back to school to change careers.
Did I make the wrong choice? Is this just what journalism is? Did I delude myself through college?
Dave, what you are experiencing is reality. 30,000 circulation dailies are the bottom of the barrel you might think, but they represent 80 percent of the newspapers in the US today. Yes, you are in the wrong industry. Mr. Grimm will not tell you that. He’s starting to worry about his own future at this point. –Mick
A. You are at the wrong paper, but I do not know whether you are in the wrong industry.
Clearly, your paper does not have the same expectations and standards as The New York Times. I’m sure that comes as no surprise to you. So don’t drive yourself crazy wishing the paper would act like the Times.
The long workdays are taking their toll and could force you out of the business before you get to the type of paper that values your talent.
As you are already worried about student loans and have worked for just a few months, I don’t think an additional degree will help much at this point.
I see only one reasonable way for you to get to the journalism you aspire to: generate the kinds of stories — maybe just one per week — that will get you into a paper that will be a better fit for your