Sunday, February 3, 2013

Time to go: Part 1

Most people ask if I left the news industry because I didn’t like being a reporter. I loved it. By no means was I a world class journalist. Sure I was a good reporter, but I wasn’t GREAT. Still I loved being a reporter. Yes, there was little pay, late hours and no appreciation, but that didn’t outweigh my love of writing, meeting new people and telling their story and just being out and about. The real reason I left was because I was scared of one day hating it.

My first newspaper job after college went well for a few months. It was at a small weekly and I was learning everything. Unfortunately illness began to affect the boss. Instead of organization, chaos started reigning supreme, and not in a good way. Newsrooms are chaotic places, but there is supposed to be organization somewhere in the midst. Cub reporters need a good editor to help mold and shape them but that wasn’t happening. Often the editor would criticize my writing. Yet when I asked for specific details on what was wrong and how I could improve it there were never concrete details. If I don’t know what’s wrong than how can I fix it? Eventually her illness reached the point where she could no longer work and she “retired.” An opportunity became available, and with the publisher’s blessing I moved to a small daily.

We had a dream team editor, assistant editor and newsroom staff for about my first year and a half. There was a solid structure with strong leadership. But things started to change. First the assistant editor left. A few months later so did the editor. The day a new assistant started, the editor announced he was leaving in two weeks. The day he left began a downward spiral. The organization and structure we had slowly but sure disappeared. Daily newspapers typically have staff meetings every day to help plan out the paper. That stopped happening. There is a document called the budget where everyone places what stories they’re working on for each day. That stopped happening. Encouragement, support and strong leadership were trademarks of our first editor. That stopped happening. At some points a co-worker and I had to take charge over planning an edition, much to the displeasure of the assistant editor. It was a rough time for everyone working.

To be continued …

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