A year ago this week, I stopped working for newspapers. Since 1999, I’d been a journalist. I started out a cops reporter, soon started covering sports and by 2003, I was editor of a weekly newspaper outside of Houston.
The hours stunk, the pay stunk and the stress stunk … but it was a hell of a ride. I loved my job and I loved putting in the effort to be good at my job.
In 2009, my wife and I had our first child. Suddenly, getting home at 7 and staying “on call” well into the night (often editing front pages and updating websites from home around bedtime) didn’t make sense anymore. Not that it ever did, really. But I’d never had a 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday job before, so I knew no other life.
In 2011, when we learned we had a second child on the way, I decided to start planning my exit strategy. In June of 2011, I was hired to work for Campbell University doing many of the things I loved about papers – writing, designing, editing, etc., etc.
So for a year, I’ve had weekends off (except one or two Saturdays). I’ve gotten home before 6. I had four days off for Thanksgiving last year. Five for Christmas. I had the Fourth of July off for the first time in over a decade. I’ve discovered what the big deal was all about with three-day weekends.
I bring this up not to bash the newspaper industry or my many peers I’ve gotten to know and truly like over the years. I, personally, was burnt out (or is it burned out? … must consult a journalist).
A friend of mine – also a former journalist who’s been out of the industry two years now – posted a link today of a thread where former sports journalists answered four questions about their decision to leave. I’ll end this with those questions and my answers.
Before then, I’d like to tip my hat to my fellow “dead journalists” … Jon, Gordon, Alex, Brooke and now Chelsea … as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our chats this past year about newspapers and why we’re glad to be out.
1. What do you miss most about journalism?
Several things … the camaraderie of the newsroom, the adrenaline from covering big news or breaking news, the thrill of producing a great newspaper that day, the creative outlet, Election Night, the perks and parking passes. It’s a career I was and am passionate about, and that will never change.
2. What do you miss least?
What the industry has done to once-great journalists. Either they lost their jobs through budget cuts or were left holding the bag and expected to produce a quality product with half the resources. I had a newsroom of 15 at The Sanford Herald in 2007, and by 2011, it was down to 7 1/2. It’s 6 now, not counting a news clerk.
I don’t miss the hours – there was no start and stop to the day. When I wasn’t in the office, I was editing from home, updating the webpage and social networks from home, or getting phone calls while out with my wife about press issues or deadline issues. It followed me everywhere I went.
I don’t miss that.
3. What do you do now?
I run the social networking and printed publications (including three magazines a year) at Campbell University, a growing university 30 minutes from my home in Central North Carolina.
4. Are you happier with your new career?
I not only still love what I do, but I have a home life now. Even if that home life consists of chasing two toddlers and always being exhausted, I can’t imagine what it would have done to me and my family had I been trying to do this while running a newsroom.