Monday, March 23, 2009

The journalist's lament

This weekend, I volunteered to mentor a teenager in a journalism workshop at my old paper. It's the seventh time they've done the workshop, in which high school students come in on a Friday night to hear a guest speaker and have dinner, then on Saturday morning go out and do interviewing and reporting for a story, which they write on Saturday afternoon. It's a pretty good crash-course in what it's like to be a reporter at a daily paper. My experience was a bit different.

The student I mentored was only in eighth grade, making her the youngest to ever to do the workshop. She had no previous experience, but was great to work with. She was enthusiastic and very willing to learn. We went out on Friday night — another first — and covered a DVD release party for "Twilight," which I know nothing about, but which she loves. The best part of the party was that while we both went in expecting a lot of girls her age, what we found was that women my age and older are really, REALLY into "Twilight." Our main characters were a group of women all wearing shirts that read, "Over 30 and dazzled," with pictures of the male lead in the movie on the backs. They were VERY excited about the movie and more than willing to talk about it. When we came back in the morning, we wrote during the time other students were out doing their reporting, so we had time to do a second story. We went out to do a quick piece on a giant yard sale to raise money for the graduation party at one of the high schools. Doing a second story was yet another first for my student. It was a blast, and the photographers on both stories were so great. The photo and story from the "Twilight" party were so good that package wound up running as the centerpiece on today's "Homefront" (what would be the city or metro section in a bigger paper) section.

The weekend was a blast, my student was awesome, and it was great to see so many young people interested in journalism. I don't know how many of them are interested in doing it as a career, but it's still exciting.
For better or for worse, going around with my student helping her interview and write just solidified my determination to stay in journalism. On one hand, it's nice to feel so passionate about something, on the other, the news about daily papers just keeps getting worse and worse. At this point, even if I found a job, there's very little job security. Even a paper that appears to be doing well could make cuts in a few months in order to try to get ahead of the storm. I've decided to move back in with my parents, which will allow me to save my unemployment checks instead of budgeting every cent while I look for something new. Taking away that stress will make it easier to be a bit pickier, but will give me time to look into other options. If nothing else, I'll freelance on the side. I'm already doing a bit of freelance editing and have been accepted to some freelance writing Web sites. I just need to DO the writing. Hopefully it won't take too much longer to find the right job.

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