I choose this career for different reasons: impact, love of the process and glory but I didn’t always want them.
We’ve all heard this before somewhere: journalists shouldn’t become the story. Not only did I write my first story, but I was also the star of a story that ignited my passion for journalism.
My diary replete with pictures of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer made a print run and was distributed nationwide in Switzerland. I was embarrassed because my sweater drew substantial ridicule at school (it didn’t help that Gerard Depardieu was on the cover). Here’s the proof (please, at least smile):
Despite the initial embarrassment, that 13-year-old kid tasted the sweet nectar of seeing his name in print and some temporary fame. A little pride and inward glory befell me. I’m not sure why it took almost over a decade to get published again. Fear, I suppose.
The first time you see your name in print, your face on TV at the media outlet of your dreams, it will make you feel like you’ve conquered the world. I promise. So, if you’re not there yet, don’t give up.
There is an intricate and subtle but beautiful craft in putting together your pieces. Sometimes you stand by them with pride, sometimes you question their impact or raison d’être (reason for being) but making your work go live is exhilarating no matter how big or small the impact.
You envision bringing down a despotic regime (which might not be a suitable bucket list item, I might add), change someone’s life (doable, sometimes, you won’t know if it has), move stocks (ding, ding, ding, ding, ding… winner) but whatever it is, you want to stir something up.
If you’re privileged enough to be making a living as a journalist, you know money isn’t everything. You talk to and explore the world from multiple perspectives every day; you can be a polymath. Your impact will depend on how much and how deep your knowledge reaches and what you can unearth.
Sure, some journalists become experts in one area of knowledge, stick to it, niche down but there are others who are generalists, flitting from one scene and topic to the next. Neither is perfect.
That’s when you fall in love with the process of creation. You plan a beautiful feature, television or radio segment and then watch it soar. Being tightly bound in the process becomes immensely satisfying. I didn’t know it could be.
Beyond glory, impact and the love of the process just let people marvel at the fact that you can make a living by meeting and talking to people.
The world needs more journalists to care about the issues that you care about. The world needs more of us to pick up a torch and ask (sometimes) dumb questions to make sense of things.
If you don’t do it, who will?
If today you’re feeling like a failure on the job, or you’re not there yet remember why your moth-like instincts keep you hovering around the light that journalism carries.
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