In a couple of weeks, I’ll walk across a stage and receive a piece of paper that tells me I have the right to become a professional journalist and begin a straight path toward poverty, depression and overall self-hatred.
So enticing! But I think I’ll pass. Four years ago I thought I would spend the rest of my life working at a newspaper; now I’m partaking in a personal challenge to never touch a broadsheet of newspaper again. A couple of sites (Google News, CNN and Slate) deliver all the news I care about, and the best part is that the Internet doesn’t leave any annoying ink on my fingers (yes, I’ve decided that my OCD makes me clinically allergic to newspapers).
I refuse to consider my secondary education a waste – even though $200,000 is a large price tag for a degree I no longer want to use directly. Journalism school made my writing better, changed the way I think about writing and helped me find my writing voice. One way or another, those things will prove their value.
It wasn’t difficult to realize I needed to stay far away from the newspaper industry. When you see your professors lose their jobs and your internship supervisor tells you to find another career, you’d be a fool to stick around. Just last week, as my final journalism class wrapped up, a guest lecturer told us that if we somehow managed to find a job, entry-level print reporters could look forward to a $20,000 salary with minimal benefits. Now that’s the kind of inspiration that a group of college graduates needs!
I probably shouldn’t boycott newspapers since I sympathize with their employees, but I can’t embrace such a failing business model. And no matter what people tell you, the web isn’t going to save papers. No sensible individual will pay for content, and you can’t run a major corporation from online advertising alone. The only way I can possibly envision newspapers surviving for another generation is with the adoption of a non-profit strategy and life support from endowments.
But it’s not just about the money and the economics. I met plenty of people in my journalism classes who truly felt like they could save the world with a news story and believed it was their ultimate destiny. That’s never been me. I loved the process of developing story ideas, and I loved the actual writing and editing – but the torture in between didn’t suit me. I found it terribly frustrating to chase people around and beg them for a quote that I probably could have written myself.
I’m diving head-first into the tech world after graduation, but at least this blog will provide some link to my former life as an aspiring journalist. Who knows – maybe it will save the world, too.