His words to me seemed simple.
“Change the world first. Make a living second.”
Easier said than done.
Two years ago today I started working at this newspaper gig. Two years of trying to make ends meet. Two years spent of telling stories. Two years without sleep. Two years of a “living” spent on countless cups of coffee. Two years later the conversation in my head still goes something like this: “Is it really worth it?”
Some days feel like time spent working for the school paper, writing stories I think only one or two people might actually read. The phone calls and emails come. A reader is upset because a name is misspelled. A reader didn’t like the way a sentence was worded or just wants to be sure I know he or she did not like the story (even better). Then comes the unexpected. Information is passed along that leads to questions, investigating and writing a story that turns heads, reminding me this is not the school paper.
One year ago I published a story about the local animal shelter’s decision to close board meetings, despite the fact that the city helped fund the organization with taxpayer dollars. I celebrated my first anniversary at the paper as the first reporter to break a big story for a small town. And this week my second anniversary has been marked the outcome of that story—the city voted to continue funding the animal shelter. Although my reporting forced city officials to actually address the issue, the end result was not what I expected.
My saving grace this week—the editorial page. For months I sat in meetings listening to city officials and animal shelter board members debate. Sitting in silence during heated discussion never bothered me as kid, never bothered me in college, but this experience challenged me in a new way. I actually had to resist the urge to argue and walk out of meetings. That “cool and collected journalist” facade is not as easy as it looks. (I did shake my head and roll my eyes a few times.) So I managed to hang on to sanity by voicing thoughts via an opinion piece on the editorial page. I have never been more thankful for my right to free speech.
So is journalism really worth it? The answer depends on the journalist’s perspective. The last two years have shown me that journalism is not for the faint of heart.
To my friend, Rick, who encouraged me to “Change the world first. Make a living second.”— I didn’t succeed at changing the world this time, but rest assured earning a living will always come second. Just look at the numbers on my pay stub.