Monday, August 4, 2008

The Newspaper Business

There's a lot of things to be scared about in this business. If its not the constant layoffs, the huge newspapers going into the red for the first time (Washington Post) and the desperate outsourcing of such necessities as copy-editing!, its hearing from people that you trust and have been in this business for years that its dead. I've been told by a very good friend of mine who was recently laid off at my paper that I should think about how to get into a different field, quick, before I get laid off too.
But I cannot believe that. Sure my current paper is seemingly a dead-end right now, but there are other papers, there are even other ways to put out the news. Online is a huge one that still involves the written word, but can also bring into line such creativeness as photography, design and multimedia in ways that mulched fibers smooshed flat can never do.
Yet the newspaper is still my favorite thing to get. There's something...comforting about the way it looks and feels and, even, smells. It's wonderful proofing our first edition because all of that wonderful ink is still slightly warm and it smell just wafts off of it like apple pie smell fills a house when you're just thinking about making one. Of course, I was also obsessed (was?) with the smell of Sharpies and Dry-Erase markers when I was a kid.
But on another down note, it is quite bothersome to see some of the newbies (yes, I know I am 'relatively' new. But keep in mind I've been writing for newspapers since senior year of high school when I wrote for the city paper which puts me at roughly 5 years of experience). Anyway, some of these kids are so spoiled, or have not yet realized the allure and beauty of this business that makes things like threats of lay-offs, really low paychecks and over-controlling editors totally worth it.
Case in point: a person interning at my paper, who I also used to be the editor of when I ran my college newspaper, has decided to come and piss and moan to me every second she gets. See, she has been interested in this for just over a year. A year in which she worked at a weekly college paper starving for inches to fill up too much white space. So, having dabbled in sprawling investigative peices (which weren't overly well-written anyway), she arrives at her internship expecting to do 'big' things. And now that she realizes that she won't because she is just has too little experience, she is unsatisfied with the chance to get clips from a daily (a definite step up) just because they are about 'fluffy' teachers awards and the like.
My first story with the News Leader was about Mars being closer than it has been in a long time. I went on to write feel-good stories about local volunteers and about an adult spelling bee raising money for the community college. It wasn't until the very end of my internship (when I had proved that I was ready and willing to churn out whatever they threw at me, and do so in a efficient and well-written fashion) that I was finally asked if there was a story that I wanted to do.
What did I end up finding out? I was not doing huge political stories that I had first told my editor I was interested in (hence the first week of shadowing the political reporter), but I was actually happy doing people stories. I loved them, even though I had pictured myself as a hardcore newspaperwoman for most of my journalism dream-life. I chose to do a huge feature on therapeutic horseback-riding. It was amazing. A front-page spread wherein I wrote a detailed first-person of the ups and downs of a local stable and one of it's 'patients.' I paired it with a more unbiased, scientific exploration of the benefits and dangers of the therapy (I mean come-on, huge beasts that often enjoy stampeding being used to treat people missing legs or people with Down Syndrome?). It is still the story I am most proud of, even though I went on to do a few exposes at the college paper and a great stint as an editorial writer decyring the failings of our college's administration.
What bothers me is that newbies no longer want to do the grunt work. They want to just do what they want to do and not worry about perfecting there art enough to handle those sprawling stories that they prefer to write. That's what the newspaper business has always been about. Getting the news out sure, but also having a hand in that once-in-a-lifetime story that ends up coming along. Not only having a hand, but being the one who makes it the best it can be. The key is to enjoy yourself and just let it come. Cause it will just be a badly written story from an inexperienced writer if you don't put in the necessary time.

Long-live newspapers...I hope I never have to leave for good.

1 comment:

  1. ditto. i never want you to have to leave and find something different- newspapers fit you so well, and you're happy. :-D

    i always forget how much i love reading the paper, until i pick one up. getting the free copies of usa today in the hotel was awesome.