This article was originally published in CPA's quarterly magazine PressNext. Click here to subscribe and have your print copy delivered.
If you could go back and do it again, would you become a journalist?
In my roles as the co-owner of a small weekly newspaper — often where people either do their internship or get their first job — and the adviser of the student-run UNC Mirror at the University of Northern Colorado, I get the chance daily to talk and work with young journalists.
What I admire about them, along with their talent and enthusiasm and ideas, is the courage it takes these days to decide to pursue a journalism career.
I entered the business just after the flush of the Woodward and Bernstein Watergate era, when enrollment in college journalism programs showed a marked increase. Back then — when ink-stained dinosaurs ruled the Earth — it was not only cool to be a journalist, but admired and encouraged.
Not so much anymore.
A couple of years ago, one of the then Mirror editors came into the office with tears in her eyes. Her father was adamantly against her becoming a journalist for all the typical reasons these days: the business is dying, the pay stinks, job security hangs on the calculator keystroke of an accountant, blah, blah, pessimistic blah blah…. If she had to get a journalism degree, he said, she should at least do something “safe” like public relations.
But she wanted to be a reporter.
In those tearful meetings, we talked a lot about why she wanted to be a reporter, and why I became one. Finally, she and her father worked it out, and today she is the business reporter at a Northern Colorado daily newspaper: her first job out of school, by the way. (College students, I cannot stress how important working at your college paper is for your initial job hunt).
Her story illustrates the reaction today’s students often face when deciding to enter this field. And it’s why I admire the courage … and optimism … that I see in their eyes. Simply put, they want to do this because they still think it’ll be fun to be a journalist.
And you know what? It is.
Even on doubtful days for someone like me, who has been banging on a keyboard for my keep for more than three decades now. What we do is not only fun and fulfilling, but it is important and integral to our society. The First Amendment is not only a right but a responsibility that we all take on when we enter the newsroom.
So, take a moment, push away the death knell pronouncements and the struggles we all face in this industry as we evolve, and instead see them as opportunities, and stop and think about why you decided to do what you do. Remember that. And use that as fuel for the fire.
And finally, I am not only optimistic, but excited to be the president of the Colorado Press Association. We have a great staff, great boards of directors, and want to help you accomplish the great work we all want to do.
If you ever have any concerns, or ideas or just want to talk about this great business we all are in, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.