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Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm in boot camp

Drop and rewrite the lede, maggot!
As my predecessor said, "The job is like you're in journalism boot camp," and boy, was she ever right.

If someone would have told the naive, excited-about-life, 18-year-old me that my major in college would lead me to a career field that had long hours, low pay, and was extremely stressful, I probably would've have picked something else.

It's not that I don't enjoy the writing or learning new things, but do I have to be an expert on a different topic every day? Oh, yes, you do.

It's like I pull back my expertise-bow and point my knowledge-arrow with both eyes closed and shoot at the target of know-it-alls. Only, I don't know it all.

This has been my struggle at work, as I make my way through the gobbly-goop of endless things-to-know. I'm the city hall reporter for a local newspaper, who dabbles a bit in health-related topics, and then everything else that gets dumped on my plate. Ah, there it is again. The plate.

I am constantly learning new things that I never thought I would ever have to think about and things that I'm sure no one else really thinks about either.

Like for example, how a landfill works. Great. I'm a garbage expert today. Wouldn't Dad be proud?

Or the inner problems a certain county animal shelter has had in recent months/years and the animal advocates, well, advocating for animal rights. (If you have any idea where I work, you probably could Google the local shelter and see what I'm talking about.)

I can also tell you a little about how local government works. It's not as glamorous as it may seem, but it's still interesting and good to know.

I always catch myself, sitting at my desk, staring for far too long at my 12-year-old computer screen (Remember, when we were in 8th grade and finally starting getting on the Internet? Yeah, those computers...), and wondering "what the hell am I doing?" Anyone else feel that way at their new job after college?

But don't worry, I'm starting to catch on.

In all honesty, I did get my B.A. in Journalism, but what I failed to mention was that it was in ADVERTISING. Hello!

Irregardless, I still got the job and have gotten the 411 on working at a local newspaper in a county where crime and poverty is highest in the state. Needless to say, I'm extremely adamant about locking my car. Two or three times over.

To get to work, I travel a total of 44 miles each morning and then another 44 miles back home. That means on a good day, I do about two hours of driving a day. It's extremely painful. My work day is an eight-hour day and sometimes more but don't forget to tack on the extra two hours of driving. Plus, any driving that I do for work going to events, meetings, and taking photos. Oh, did I mention I do my own art for my stories?

The job is frustrating at times, but I appreciate the fact that I do have a job.

(Even though my paycheck makes me embarrassed; my computer shuts down on me at least once a day while I'm working; the cameras refuse to operate at times; my confidence flat-lined due to some of my stories being ripped apart by my editor, and the distance I have to travel to get to work makes me want to pull my hair out and cry. Other than that, it's just peachy.)

I have even had a breakdown in front of my boss. How professional. But I'm not the only one. There are two others that work at the paper that have done the same and I know there have been more.

I can say though, that I do like seeing my name in black and white and seeing the photos I've taken in color. I have also met some great and interesting people along the way.

But in this business, if you're thinking about it, remember the work comes home with you, it sleeps with you, it gives you nightmares, and hangs over your head until you pay attention to it again. My little gremlin. This could only be because I'm in a difficult situation right now, but I know I must not be the only one in the business who feels this way? Just remember, you're never really going to get rich from this kind of work. Unless you're like working for USA Today, Wall Street Journal or the New York Times.

I'm still at the bottom of the ranks, and I know that boot camp is far from over. And I don't just mean at work, I mean in general life stuff. It's sort of the life that I was waiting for after college. I mean, that's when life really begins, right?

Well, I guess it's back to work for me...

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