Once a journalist, always a journalist

A friend wrote to me that my post on 24+ signs you’re truly an ex-newspaper journalist is depressing. (She is a current newspaper journalist.) That distressed me because it wasn’t intended to be depressing. A little snarky, maybe, and certainly realistic, but not depressing.

I’ve been noodling around a second post — “24+ signs: once a journalist, always a journalist” — but it seems too derivative. (See the end of the post.) Plus, many of the signs listed in that ex-newspaper journalist post reflect a love of newspaper journalism in their own way….and a lost love, too.

Then my friend Amanda Lehmert, a reporter and editor at my former newspaper, wrote: “Now that just proves there are no ex-journalists, only people who are no longer employed by newspapers.” She was referring to this comment: “I have the scanner app on my phone, too. Sometimes I play it in the background instead of music.”

Amanda is exactly right. Just because we’ve left the employ of newspapers doesn’t mean we’ve lost the habits and the standards, the thrill and the angst, and the anger and the love of newspapering. And the truth is, you don’t have to be a journalist who works for a newspaper to have these feelings.

We get angry at change and the inability to change, bad hours and worse pay, and bosses and readers who don’t appreciate us.

But every journalist worth a damn loves the chase of the story, the making a difference in the world and the privilege of working with smart, funny creative people. People wrote fondly about following sirens and understanding deadlines and telling stories.

This comment best captures the close-knit newsroom feel.

“You really miss the feeling of camaraderie in the newsroom and realize you will never again work with such a great group of bright, passionate, dedicated, fun, humble, educated and liberal folks in your life. As a newspaper reporter or copy editor, you could go to almost any newsroom in the country and would feel like you just belonged. This is what made the field worthwhile, despite the very low pay.”

I tell my students that a journalism degree is worth every penny you spend on it. If you don’t, you’ll be fine because every business appreciates people who know how to write clearly, concisely and cogently, who can gather information, analyze it and think critically. And, as a commenter said, you make deadlines.

But if you go into journalism, yes, the industry is in flux and you’re not going to get rich. Instead, you’ll have a ball, working with great colleagues, meeting interesting people and telling their stories, and making a difference to your readers. And maybe you’ll be the one who figures it all out.

(If you want to post a comment on “24 signs: once a journalist, always a journalist,” please do.)

Quick update: I just got this comment on the earlier post that makes my point: You secretly fantasize that when you happen to be visiting your husband’s newsroom and jokingly offer to put together the NHL roundup, someone will yell  “Yes, please! And can you edit the Mets gamer, too? And there’s a pile of page proofs over there. And when you finish that, we need captions for an online slideshow.”

5 thoughts on “Once a journalist, always a journalist

  1. Pingback: 24+ signs you’re truly an ex-newspaper journalist (OK, really, it’s at 191 signs) | Media, disrupted

  2. there are just so similarities between being a scientist and a journalist: i could go through your piece and change the words “journalist” to “scientist” and “newspapering” to “research” and it would not only make sense, but it would be true, too.

  3. I agreed w/ the post, as well. I laughed, especially, at the post about visiting a spouse’s newsroom and getting asked to help edit copy.

    One thing that’s changed, it drives me crazy on weekends when Chris wants to leave town and I want to stay at home, but I understand why he wants to do that. I once felt the same way. He wants the opportunity to feel like he’s not working. If we’re at home, he’ll be listening to the scanner, or if we’re around town people will stop him to talk shop.

  4. Pingback: Webmanario pergunta: você é um ex-jornalista de papel? | Gabriel Toueg: jornalista

  5. You still can read upside down and remember fondly covering the courthouse, leaning in close to a prosecutor’s desk and asking him/her some inane question so he/she can pontificate on something you don’t need as you can write furiously what you can read upside down.

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