The worst part of journalism and why it’s still worth it

It’s inevitable: I’m going to run out of room on my tape recorder.

In theory, I’m OK with that fact. In reality, I’ve got 24:36 left before I have to do some major cleansing on that thing.

The problem is, I refuse to let some interviews go. I have probably 20 interviews – some nearly two years old, some as recent as a couple of months ago – that have survived a half-hearted attempt at clearing some room, another full-out purge, and if I have anything to do with it, they’ll survive this next go-round as well.

Journalism isn’t always a glamourous job. In fact, in my experience (so far, which is, if you add up the internships and semesters I’ve spent on papers, 16 months, 20 if you give me double credit for being the editor of two papers at once) it’s about weird hours and that one source who just won’t call you back. Or conveniently takes vacation time the week you’re working on a story with them. Oh, and it’s about a lot of coffee.

I spent one internship working for the Government of Canada – Natural Resources Canada. In the end, I enjoyed the work that I did there – I loved the subject matter; I find the oil sands, its technology and fallout, especially the tailings ponds, fascinating – which is kind of surprising, considering it was a lot of video work. Anyways, my point is that I worked Monday to Friday, eight to four. That was it, unless I was travelling (it happened). I could make plans with friends weeks in advance, because I knew what my schedule was. In a journalism job – not a chance. At this paper, it’s a little better because I know I work every third weekend, unless we do some shuffling to accommodate someone. During my St. Albert internship, I knew I worked basically every weekend. Couldn’t tell you the time or place until Thursday afternoon, but I knew I would be working. Which was OK, it kept me busy because I didn’t really have anything else to do and it gave me experience, but it was frustrating sometimes not to know what was coming up and if I could make plans for the weekend until basically half a day before.

There’s also the subject matter. In case you haven’t glanced at a newspaper lately, news isn’t always “feel good.” In fact, it’s got a rap for not being enough feel good. Honestly, there are just some stories that are a pain to do – the source isn’t articulate, it doesn’t make sense, or it’s just plain not interesting to me personally. Then there’s also just the bad stuff  – the car accidents, the court cases, having to talk to someone who just had a friend or family member die.

But those afore-mentioned 20 interviews are why I can go out and photograph the car accidents, deal with the inarticulate source, and try to find some interest in a boring story. I’m never going to do anything with those interviews again, but they’re my favourite. They remind me that I have a really cool job, and I get to talk to people with amazing stories. I figure if I can suffer through three-and-a-half hours of a federal candidates forum until 9:30 at night (although, I’ve got to admit, there were some pretty interesting/funny moments) there will be a storydown the road – like a woman catching a stray beaver in a dog kennel – that has my name on it.

One thought on “The worst part of journalism and why it’s still worth it

  1. I read this the other night while grumbling to myself about all the community things I cover now that we were never supposed to cover for the Journal—oh how times have changed! Thanks for adding some great perspective to it for me.

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