A newspaper reporter who loves his job

Letter to Romenesko

From JIM MORRISON: Every couple of days or so we read about some news organization or other gutting their newsroom, closing another bureau, replacing staff with freelancers, or replacing freelancers with unpaid bloggers. We don’t yet know who’ll supplant the unpaid bloggers.
Jobs are vanishing, salaries are withering, and a recent Gallup poll shows that the average person believes that journalists are less honest than bankers, but slightly more honest than business executives.

Wow. Really? I feel like I just got voted “Least Noticeable Lovehandles” at my high school reunion.

With increasing frequency, we read essays from former (recovering?) journalists who left the field after a long time in the trenches. We read how happy they are, how much more financially stable they are, and how much they miss their old jobs.

It’s all true, but it’s only part of the story./CONTINUES

There are hordes of eager, young (and not-so young) truth-seekers and storytellers in those same trenches doing good work and always looking to do more.

I’m a not-so young one. Until recently, I’d spent my professional life as a home inspector. I began working for my father’s inspection practice in the late 1980’s.

I made my own hours and controlled my own life. We had some great years during the real estate bubble and some lean years before and after. It worked out OK.

About two years ago, at the age of 41 and with a wife, two kids, a mortgage, and an 8-year-old car; amidst the worst recession most of us have seen; and at a time when conventional wisdom said newspapers were deader than disco, I decided to jump in.

I’d done a bit of stringing for a couple of tiny, now-extinct newspapers and I figured I could be a good reporter if I could get some training.

After a few grad school classes and some real-world experience, I felt like I was ready to work, so I left school and became a correspondent for the only newspaper I’ve ever really wanted to work for, The Boston Globe, a paper I used to deliver.

I used to make more money in a day than I do now in some weeks, but I’m extraordinarily proud of what I’m now part of. I am constantly learning (read: making rookie mistakes), improving my skills, and getting ready for whatever comes next. The work is excruciating and rewarding in roughly equal parts.

I don’t do this for the money, I’m in it for the love. I’m going to spend the remainder of my productive years committing acts of journalism in front of as wide an audience as I can muster. And there are countless folks just like me.

Newspapers are struggling, it’s true, but honest news-gathering and storytelling are thriving and always have. Never doubt it.