A few weeks ago, I received the following text from a friend. A guy I don’t talk to regularly, by any means, but I consider him one of the smartest people I know.
“You were smart to quit journalism. But you are a great writer.”
It simultaneously warmed and broke my heart.
I’m not referencing the exchange to toot my own horn—though I so appreciate the compliment and am still not sure I deserve it—but rather to kickstart the discussion of why I’m no longer a reporter.
For those who don’t know: I majored in broadcast journalism with plans to become a sports reporter.
All through school I heard about former students who had the same goal—to work the sidelines for a major network—only to find themselves covering local news, building their resume for the day a solid sports gig came along.
I was beyond fortunate to have the job I wanted right out of school, albeit part-time.
High school soccer, football, basketball and wrestling consumed my weekends. I had sideline access to my alma mater’s Saturday showdowns. They were paying me to watch sports.
So why did I quit?
It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy what I did. But maybe I didn’t enjoy it enough.
I didn’t enjoy it enough to settle for a schedule that prevented me from ever seeing my family and friends, primarily because I worked when they played, or slept as they woke, and vice versa.
I didn’t enjoy it enough to be talked down to, literally and figuratively, by *coaches and administrators who thought I was either too young or too feminine to be doing what I was doing.
Which is why I respect the hell out of every female sports reporter who’s continued to work through that bullshit. You should, too.
I didn’t enjoy it enough to go along with the unbelievable passive aggression fired off by every major player at the station—anchors, producers, executives. It was toxic.
I didn’t enjoy it enough to continue hanging on the empty promise of going full-time in December (actually, we can’t do it until March—err, let’s talk about it in June) when my paycheck plus two other jobs was barely covering rent.
I didn’t enjoy it enough to ignore the fact that I was never asked to cover road games because they didn’t want to pay for two hotel rooms: one for the male photographer and a second for the female reporter.
I just didn’t enjoy it enough.
A lot of people have heard my story and promised not all stations are like that. I 100% believe them. But it put a terrible taste in my mouth.
And while I wasn’t in any real hurry to leave the industry (Hudl was the only non-TV role I applied for in a six-month spree of sending my reel to every station in the lower 48), I’m even less interested in rushing back.
I wouldn’t trade this impromptu career change for the world.
Especially when I consider the state of the media right now.
Against all odds, they’re continuing to produce incredible content, not just for the sake of creating but educating. They’re under unreal pressure to serve up stories with an actual purpose.
And even when they succeed at it, they’re shot down with accusations of lying and showing bias.
I’m not afraid to admit I wouldn’t do well in that environment.
It almost seems like a lose-lose profession. There’s no way to please the masses without compromising your journalistic integrity, is there? Because when you stick to your guns, actual trolls waste no time making you pay for those convictions.
That’s not healthy.
Are you feeling even a twinge of this despair? Or am I lamenting over everything to no one?
Please, appreciate the great journalists of today. They’re working their butts off to save ours.
And I mean that in the most literal sense.
If you want a list of solid people to read/follow/support, I’d be happy to oblige, and know several others who would gladly add to it. Just ask.
Title Credit: The Pussycat Dolls
*This does NOT apply to every team I covered. In fact, the incidents were few and far between, but very unnerving—not an easy feeling to shake. Even with the support of other reporters and the kindest of coaches.