Seven years ago today, I began my professional journalism career, though I’ve had internships and wrote journalistically since my junior year in college. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
Well, it is. Because in this business that I’m in, seven years is a landmark. Most young reporters leave before their seventh year.
I certainly thought that I would never make this mark. In fact, there have been several times during those seven years when I’ve asked myself “what the hell am I doing here?”
Certainly, I could have made more money somewhere else. At one point, I was in demand. Bilingual. Fairly intelligent (or intelligent enough) with critical thinking and writing skills. On those skills alone, I could have reached a level of middle class that even my parents wouldn’t have believed.
But my heart isn’t about money. My heart has always belonged to writing, to storytelling, to this drive to move the human spirit with words.
Some would say the journalists don’t tell stories. And I would agree about 75 percent with that statement. What my profession has become is not a place where stories are told. It’s about business. The bottomline. What’s efficient. What can be told in a matter of inches, 8-10, nearly the length of two pencils ironically.
Some would say the two pencil lengths is, in most cases, enough. Sometimes. Some would say that amount of newshole is not enough. Sometimes. Some would say that it’s useless to continue trying to tell stories in a small space. Never.
The 25 percent of my profession that isn’t obsessed with money issues is shear and pure joy. Who doesn’t want to get paid to have adventures? I know I enjoy them, the good and the bad. But that’s because I know I’m damn lucky.
Here’s the truth about why I wanted a job in newspapers…I wanted to be a writer. In particular I wanted to be a paid writer. Paid writers with a regular paycheck worked for newspapers.
But something interesting happens to well-meaning beginning journalists, they realize, probably the hard way, that working in news isn’t a job or even a career. It’s a marriage. There are hard times, good times, sweet times, trying times. There are times you want a divorce and other times you want to renew your vows. Crying is involved. Elation is involved. You move. You stay. You move again. Who in their right mind wants this life?
Storytellers. They want this life. They crave this life. It’s in them like breath, like fire, like desire.
In seven years, however, some know they don’t, can’t, won’t be storytellers. It’s not for them. And I respect them for it.
In seven years, they get the itch, and they leave.
So here I am. Seven years. And even as I write this, I’m in a newsroom with scanners blazing, clacking away on a keyboard.
I don’t know how, with my MFA degree, my journalism career will go. I’d like to think journalism and newspapers have given me the best lessons in the fundamentals to the craft of writing and living. I can have pretty prose because I’ve had ugly articles. Some would say in abundance.
So here’s the tag to my story or maybe it’s the lede:
Why am I here?
I’m a storyteller. And today I’ve got seven years of proof.