Sometimes I feel like an alarm clock – necessary but loathed by the people you disturb.
That’s what it is like to be a newspaper reporter. Writing a balanced and fair story means you tick-off everyone in it. Just asking questions and doing research for a story incenses some people. But everyone wants the media to do its job – report what, how and why something happened. Ferret out wrongdoing or refute gossip. And you expect us to do it quickly and for little pay. Do you know any rich journalists?
It ain’t easy living on a perpetual deadline. We are very, very human but we are not allowed to make mistakes. When we do, even misspelling a name, we must correct and publicize it. Doesn’t matter that it wasn’t intentional or malicious – we fall on our swords and are labelled incompetent and biased. We are routinely threatened with lawsuits. And now, thanks to the gift of anonymity on the internet, nameless readers leave vicious remarks on our paper’s online edition.
Showing the slightest bit of emotion or sorrow is considered a weakness. We are expected to know a lot about everything and learn it quickly. Our industry and especially the paper we work for is incessantly maligned. Over and over we are reminded that we are working for a dying industry. We work ridiculous hours and are not allowed to take gifts or put political bumper stickers on our cars. Oh, an we are expected to be creative and write. Remember how hard it was to write a term paper? Well, we crank those out – sometimes on a daily basis.
This is my life. Day after day. Year after year. Decade after decade. I love what I do. I chose this occupation. I would not want to do anything else. But sometimes the stress and the pace gets to me and that is not good for my mental health. Just now, before I have even taking my morning shower, I got an email from an angry reader, demanding a correction.
A lot of people think I have a really cool job. They see journalists on television and think what journalists do is so glamorous and exciting. It can be. But the bulk of journalists out there – and I am one of them – cover the mundane. We spend countless hours in mind-numbingly boring school board, county commission, city council and zoning board meetings. We cover parades, high school football games and car washes. We call the parents of kids killed in car accidents. We scour hundreds and hundreds of pages of depositions and often find nothing of interest.
I’m whining, I know. A lot of people have very stressful jobs. I am not unique. I am damn glad that in this economy and dying industry I even have a job. Sometimes, I just need to say – or write – my feelings. Just spit it out. It doesn’t matter if anyone even reads it. I just need to get it out of me. I learned this exercise after my last major depression. They call it “journalling” and it really used to piss me off because the last thing I wanted to do on my time off is write. But I have to admit that it does work. It is good for me. It’s like working out. You don’t want to but afterward you feel much, much better.
Right now I just want to go back to bed. Pull the covers over my head and forget about the guy who wants a correction. I want to turn off my computer and cell phone and sleep. I am so tired. So very, very tired. I learned after my last depression that this, too, shall pass. When I am in a depression my brain convinces me that my life will always be this way – I will always be depressed. But this, too, shall pass.
So, I am off to the newsroom. I will deal with the guy who wants a correction and pray that today my editor will ask me to interview George Clooney instead of covering another boring meeting. A girl’s got to dream, right?