Ask a Grown Journalist: Why Do You Do What You Do?

This Tumblr user responded to my “Ask a Grown Journalist” post with three great questions. Unfortunately, it has been a bit hectic in the news business recently, so I haven’t been able to answer until now. Let’s start with the big question:

What makes you keep doing what you do? For context, you should understand that I didn’t always want to pursue a career in journalism. I didn’t work on my high school or college newspapers, and I never really had the desire to be the next Bob Woodward. When I was in high school, I told my mom I wanted to write fiction.

“You can’t make any money in that,” she said. “What about journalism?”

That was in the mid-1990s, when the news industry was still humming along and relatively flush with cash. (Of course, the professional journalists reading this are probably looking at their pay stubs and shaking their heads in response to my mom’s comment about money. And it’s interesting to note that my parents later paid for my sister’s degree in creative writing. But that’s a topic to discuss with my therapist.) It was relatively easy to get a job at a newspaper at the time. Within two weeks of graduation I had my first gig - I covered county government at the 20,000-circulation, six-day Findlay Courier in Ohio. It was a great place to work. The staff was a mix of long-time journalists willing to share their experiences in the field and young journalists excited to be in a newsroom. I found that every day brought new challenges and new topics to write about, and Findlay’s small, close-knit population made it easy to see the impact of my work.

When the job began to seem routine, I moved onto another news organization and beat, then another. In 2005 I came to California to cover music and entertainment for the 50,000-circulation Record newspaper in Stockton. That’s where I first learned about social media, as I found bands were sharing information about upcoming shows and their latest releases on MySpace. I wanted to design a MySpace page that would serve as a hub of information for local musicians, so I learned how to code (using the book “Spring into HTML and CSS,” which I highly recommend). That led me to create 209Vibe and it started me on a path to a career in online journalism.

The Internet continues to offer exciting challenges and opportunities for journalists. It seems like I learn about a new or innovative way to tell a story or engage users every day. I love building on those innovations and helping create projects that keep my news organization relevant to its community.

I won’t make a fortune doing it, despite what my mom may have thought when she first offered me career advice years ago. But I’ve always loved the fact that my job offers daily opportunities to do something different and creative. That’s what keeps me working in journalism.

I’ll respond to the other two “Ask a Grown Journalist” questions later this week. If you have a question for a grown journalist, leave a comment on this post and I’ll try and get back to you.