I don’t talk that much about my degree in Journalism. It’s not that I’m not super proud of having it, because I am! It’s just that it doesn’t come up much.
I did, however, spend a year and a half at a small-town, weekly newspaper after graduation. I was using my degree! Even more fun, it was a sister newspaper to the one my best friend from high school was working at as well. I quickly found being the local news reporter made me something of a local celebrity, and I found myself in the most fascinating places meeting interesting people. I even got to cover a movie being filmed in the town! (Hollywood types don’t like cameras near movie sets.) I enjoyed the job at heart, but there was only one major issue…
We were a staff of three women. That was it. Or bookkeeper/receptionist, the publisher/editor and me, the staff writer/pretty much anything else.
Can we say a fast trip to burnout? At first I loved it, because I got experience in everything. I was writing, reporting, photography, editing, etc. But later, it just dragged me down… I couldn’t really hone my skills in a specific direction. I felt mediocre in all things. I started to be less enthusiastic about work…
…of course the fact I was dating a guy I was pretty sure I’d marry and move to Nashville to be with didn’t help…
But the breaking point really came after Thanksgiving the year I hung up my journo hat. Around 4:00 one afternoon, report of a bad accident came across the police scanner. It happened to be on my way home, so my boss told me to go see what happened then just go home after. I could do the article the next day.
I drove out with a sick feeling. I pulled up to the scene to see a badly mangled car… Christmas gifts in the back window. I could hear a child crying and screaming from the car. I froze. I was sick about myself. I’m there to take pictures of this family’s tragedy! I’m there to be nosy. I felt like such a vulture! This wasn’t like the 18 wheeler that high-centered in the Wal-Mart parking lot. This wasn’t like covering the sentencing of a criminal in court. This was a family in pain at Christmas. These were KIDS. I wanted to help, not… Take PICTURES.
I called my then-boyfriend having a total meltdown. I was in tears, just sick over it.
“I can’t do this!” I cried. “I want to help, not be a vulture!”
Life flight was brought in and someone loaded up from the car… While I just stood there. I felt like the worst person ever. It was my job, yes. It was a job I loved and was excited to have and study. I hang my degree proudly still. I learned a lot working at that newspaper, and my degree plan offered so many electives I was able to really branch out what I studied but in that moment… in that moment I wanted to be compassionate and help.
I turned in my two week notice a week or two later. I still think about doing some freelance work. And I might in the future. I love to write and I am still a total newshound. But being a stoic reporter? That’s not me. And I long ago realized that is okay.