Why I Didn’t Want To Be A Journalist

Processed with VSCO with b1 preset

How could it be that after thirteen years of planning for a career in journalism I decided to walk away from it? What were the reasons to my strong feelings about the work?

The things I mention in this blog post do not mean they are absolute truths, something that goes for everything and everyone. Instead, they are my own opinions and how I’ve experienced working as a journalist. They are also mainly focused on experience from local newspaper journalism instead of the longer, investigative kind.

With these things in mind – let’s dive in!

Drawn To Drama

I was working on a news article when the chief editor came to me, telling me to pack my camera, microphone and notebook, and head to a small town that was a thirty-minute drive away. Apparently, a fire had started and they wanted to get a live feed going from the site and a quick update with a photo on their social media.

Almost on my way, they reached the fire department who told them that it was a false alarm. Fortunately for me, no fire was roaming and I didn’t have to document it. But they would have loved a news piece like that.

Why?

Especially local newspapers and news sites are very dependent on their total amount of clicks and readers. That means that they often aim to write about not only things that are important (such as political news) but also surprising and get the reader’s attention.

Unfortunately, what seems to sell the most and attract the greatest amount of readers and views, are news that have to do with traffic accidents, murders, terrorism, vandalism, violence and other similar happenings. We humans tend to be drawn to drama, other people’s problems and conflicts. That’s just the way it is.

I, however, try to avoid that kind of news as much as possible. I decided a long time ago to stop reading that kind of news, because I believe that the information I get from the articles doesn’t improve my life in any way. It just adds to the information overload.

But as a journalist, I was forced to come across this kind of news. It could be the talk of the day in the newsroom or something that came up in a conversation with someone. Maybe I would write a short news piece on the topic, or interview a victim or an authority. Although a story about a murder didn’t maybe ruin my day, it still had its effect on me. It was unnecessary information, shifting my focus away from things that did matter.

And that was one of the reasons that drove me away from daily journalism: the active seeking of drama and unfortunate events.

Conflicts and Controversies

Two other attention-catching and curiosity-awakening news are those that either highlight a conflict or a controversy.

Conflicts – we are drawn to stories that present a classical good-and-evil setting. They describe a conflict that exists between a victim, the ”good” person, and an authority, the ”evil” one. This can be a news story about a political decision and what kind of effect it has on different socio-economic groups in the society. The stories tend to highlight the conflict, the ones who benefit the most and the least from a decision or an event.

Controversies – topics that arouse (negative) feelings or strong opinions are another great way to catch readers. Drug abuse, law-breaking, sexuality, religion, predators near humans… the list could go on and on. There’s a great deal of people out there who have a strong opinion about many things – sometimes they are well motivated arguments, at other times not as much. And those who aren’t maybe that interested in joining the public conversation, are still curious to follow the conversation.

This kind of news often tell about an important or critical challenge in society, and are therefore needed. But both conflicts and controversies are often negatively portrayed.

When I wanted to write about a topic that had to do with one of them, I couldn’t go on with the story unless I had a victim – someone who had suffered from the conflict I was interested in (e.g. a political decision) or the controversy (being an abuser, for instance). It was the key to every article: finding a victim with a good story. Without a victim, there was no news story and nothing that would attract readers to read the story.

I think one of the most thought-awakening experiences regarding these kind of stories was when we were working on a documentary at school and our teacher said that finding a victim with a story was the key to creating a good documentary. His actual words were ”The worse he or she feels, the better.”

I knew he had a point because a good story is intriguing and makes everything so much more real – but at the same time I had the thought even if it’s true it doesn’t make it right. To ride on someone else’s pain, suffering or trauma felt wrong, especially when I probably couldn’t help the person deal with the pain. I was there only to do my job – write a news article.

The negativity in many of the news articles I wrote didn’t help me feel more motivated about my job. I felt that we weren’t going deep enough, we didn’t even get started on the subject before I had already written 800 words on the subject and had reached the maximum amount of words for the news piece.

Giving People What They Want

As I’ve described above, readers are easily drawn to stories that highlight conflicts, controversies, misfortunes, bad choices and violence. Writing that list feels awful but that’s the way it is. It’s as if many wish to color their own safe and balanced lives with tragic stories of others. It’s also to have something to talk about with friends and colleagues and wonder how other people live their lives and what is wrong with the society.

And many aren’t even capable of explaining why they are so intrigued by these news – they just are.

As a consequence of this, media houses, chief editors and journalists are willing to feed the addiction of us people by giving more such news. Thus they manage to get their readers to come to the home page more often, follow them on social media, click on the news and read them. In this way, the newspaper gets more readers which means more money and a more stable future for the media house.

And that’s completely understandable – and completely twisted. Shouldn’t we read more about innovations, new ways of doing things, instead of focusing on only highlighting problems? What about hearing about people or groups with positive energy who create change and make things better in the society, instead of horror stories about drunk-drivers and abusers? Maybe read about how to live a healthy, fulfilling life, how to help others, how to improve, instead of lifting up what diseases are taking down most people?

Shouldn’t these topics be the reason people come back to a page and click onward, to read something that actually add value to their lives, instead of filling them with scandalous and negative information?

This is, at least, what I was constantly thinking about while working as journalist and something that still feels relevant. Why are we putting so much energy on the negative stuff when there is so much good out there? Are we writing about the conflicts and controversies so that our readers can spice up their day-to-day life, or because the news stories actually add value to their lives?

And of course, without forgetting the reader’s own responsibility: do they even know what they want or do they simply take what’s given to them without questioning it?

Serving the Common Interest

In addition to not being suited for the environment journalists work in, I had a hard time feeling motivated about what I did. I noticed asking myself almost every day ”why is this an important topic to write about, or is it?” Journalism is supposed to serve the common interest, to act as a watch-dog of politicians and inform citizens about important things. But the stories I was writing – did they belong in any of those categories?

Maybe they did, at least for some people. But for me, they didn’t. It felt as if I was putting my time, energy and brain capacity on something that didn’t add value to my life (because I know so much about different plants, parasites, nuclear power, insects and taxi drivers now than I did before, to name a few). I didn’t feel like I was writing about things that were important.

As I wrote in the beginning, this post has been about how I feel about things and what I think about the way news are written today. There is, of course, a great deal of great journalism out there – and that’s what got me interested in the first place. But that kind of journalism is more investigative and long-term journalism, a form that is struggling to keep its place in the world. With the 24/7 news updates and short, easy-to-read articles, many are opting to skip the longer, more valuable news stories and focus on the short ones instead. And that’s where everyone loses: the journalists, the readers, the society.

I haven’t completely trashed all my thoughts on becoming a journalist. After all, it’s about writing which is my passion. I just don’t want to work for a local daily newspaper.

If I get the opportunity to work on a longer piece that has to do with something positive, inspiring and/or motivating, then yes – I’ll give it a try. But otherwise, I’m fine with what the writing-projects I’m working on now.

Did this blog post raise any thoughts about the subject. If yes – what? Tell them in the comments and we’ll continue the conversation there. Have a nice Thursday!

True Progress: Life After Quitting

IMG_5718_1

Tuesday one week ago would have been the last day of my summer job as a radio journalist. When I saw the marking in my calendar (Last day at work!) which was, of course, struck through, I felt incredibly satisfied.

If I had carried through the whole deal, which means I would have worked for thirteen weeks from June to the beginning of September… well, I don’t know how I would be doing.

I know I would still be in this town, living in this apartment and would have a bit more money on my bank account. But how I would be feeling, what would I be thinking, what would the overall mood be like?

First of all, many of these blog posts wouldn’t have happened. Honestly, I don’t think a single one of them. For instance, although some of the Still Life Sundays existed before starting out H.E.R., many of them have been born in the progress.

I wouldn’t have read some of the great books I have come in contact with (latest one being Butcher’s Crossing by the amazing John Williams) or written my own book project (which now has more than 47 000 words and 111 pages – and is still going strong).

The hikes we’ve done, the weekend of sailing, all the thinking I’ve done, the creative ideas I’ve had… I have a hard time believing any of them would have happened if I had stayed at the job.

As I looked at the Last day of work!  mark in my calendar, I felt the satisfaction that comes from making a good decision. That day, on Tuesday, I had had a very productive, creative and fulfilling day, instead of being at work and doing something I wasn’t enjoying (although for that day I’d probably have baked a cake to celebrate my last day, and cake is never wrong, but let’s not shift our focus here).

By five o’clock that day, which would have been the time I usually was done with work and would have been on my way home, I had done following things: my morning yoga routine and a short muscle workout, written 1,5k on my book (which always gives me the greatest boost of calm and satisfaction), eaten a good lunch in nice company, read thirty-something pages of a well-written book, published a blog post and accepted the invitation to join a few friends for a beer that evening.

And that day was more or less the definition of how I’d like many more of my days to look like. Of course, every day won’t be a successful day of writing and so on, but the structure of that day was functioning and satisfying. It made me happy.

Last Thursday we had a go-through of the internship with rest of my fellow journalism students. We were asked to come up with three things we liked about our internship, three things we didn’t think functioned very well and an aha-experience (i.e. a realization) we had had during our internship.

Before the go-through I was actually pretty nervous, wondering if we were going to talk about me quitting my job, or if a cloud of disappointment would hang in the air through the whole thing.

However, no one seemed to judge me for my decision. As I presented my list of likes and dislikes and my aha-experience (how it felt like I really learned how the working life of a daily news journalist looks like), I felt pride and strength in my decision. I knew I had done the right thing and no one could make me change my opinion about that decision.

It was as if I had already moved beyond that, like I was already on the next step while everyone else were still hanging out on the previous one. It felt like true progress.

Why It Was A Tough Thing To Do

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

For the past three weeks I have been writing about how and why I quit my job. But you might wonder why I’m making such a big deal out of it – it’s just a job! Nothing more, nothing less.

Nothing more than a job. Nothing less than a job. That is the problem.

Nothing Less Than A Job

My grandparents grew up in a world filled with political conflicts. They lived in a society where economic security was a luxury only some people had. For my grandparents having a job, money, savings and investments was very important.

Their values were passed on to my parents, who raised their children during the inflation in Finland in the 1990s and who got their share of the economic crisis in 2008. And so, for them having a job, money and savings is also extremely important.

For any of them, quitting a job voluntarily is something that is hard to understand and accept. I think their arguments could go something like this:

”It’s a good thing to have a job. Why quit unless you have another job to go for or some other significant reason for doing it?”

”How can you finance your life if you don’t have a steady income?”

”It doesn’t give a good impression to have quit your job for no proper reason.”

So their three main arguments here would be 1) the economic security of having job, 2) the good reputation you get for having a job, and 3) the norm of having a Monday to Friday nine-to-five-job.

For them having a job is more than just a job. It’s the insurance of a lifetime which you cannot throw away without having some significant reasons for doing it.

But I have grown up in a different world with different values. The working world as we now it is already so different from that my parents and grandparents learned to know. One can create a career online, it’s easier to become an entrepreneur or work half-time while doing projects of your own. But unfortunately, they don’t see the opportunities in the same way as younger generations do. And that’s a challenge.

Only a year ago I believed, for the most part, in the same working values as the rest of my family – and society – does.

Nothing More Than A Job

Now, this is what I think. My job as a radio journalist was only a job and I thought that if I quit it isn’t the end of everything. Rather, it’s a new beginning.

For a long time, I thought I would enjoy being a journalist and that was what I worked for. I had the opportunity to try writing traditional newspaper articles, web-based news pieces and articles and this summer, I tried doing radio. None of them felt right – not in the way I was hoping they would, anyway.

So when I decided to throw away my former dreams of becoming a journalist, it felt like I had the right to do that. I mean, I had tried different forms of journalism without the results I had been hoping for, and felt as if I could motivate my decision to quit as well as I can motivate why I choose chocolate ice cream over strawberry (because chocolate is chocolate – but it goes great with strawberry so if I can have both, I’ll take them).

After all, it was only a job I was quitting. It wasn’t as if I was throwing away my life and absolutely everything I had ever worked for. I had learned new things and values along the way. This job experience had made me wiser and more clear when it comes to my thoughts on what I want to do with my life. I had the opportunity for turning the page and begin a new chapter called ”I quit my job – now what?”

However, not everyone recognize quitting as a new beginning. Not at least in a positive way.

Toughest Conflicts Exist In Your Head

Only a year ago I believed, for the most part, in the same working values as the rest of my family – and society – does. It was important to have a job because 1) it gives you economic security, 2) what else would you do if not work for a company or an organization and 3) it was the decent thing to do.

But a year later, I found myself questioning all three reasons:

1) By proper and realistic economic planning you can plan your year, i.e. how much you need to earn and how much you can spend per month, and still have savings or even invest in something.

2) Finding a job where you enjoy yourself and what you do is extremely hard to find. Especially for HSPs it can be tough to find a work environment that suits one’s needs. Instead, why not work for yourself? It definitely isn’t unheard of these days.

3) This was the hardest thing to question. I had always been the girl who got an A in many of the subjects at school, who worked hard and got the jobs she went for. And now I was thinking – is working in a place I dislike really the decent thing to do – especially if it isn’t what I want to do?

The people-pleaser in me knew that the toughest conflict here was in my head – to do what was the decent thing to do or do what I wanted to do although it was against the norms of the society and my family? Well, as you know, I opted for the more rebellious alternative.

The other conflict in my head was how I would be able to communicate these thoughts to someone who doesn’t (want to) understand my decision. Here, instead of trying to explain the whole truth I decided to tell only part of the truth. This didn’t really make the decision any easier, to know that I wouldn’t be able to answer the question ’why?’ as truthfully as I wanted to. But it felt like a better option than having really complicated conversations with someone who necessarily didn’t even want to understand my decision.

In the weeks before and a week or so after quitting felt as a tough decision. But today it feels like I could do it again, if needed. And that’s a good sign, I’d say.

Now a question to you because I am curious to know – how are the social norms in your family or society when it comes to working? Is it a norm, ’the decent thing to do’ or are you encouraged to embark on your own career path?

Today I Quit My Job – Part III

IMG_5331_1

This is the third and the last check-up post where I reflect on quitting my job which happened two weeks ago. Two weeks already! Or only two weeks – hard to say which one feels more right.

Well, above you can see a picture of me, taken a few days ago. It’s Friday morning, and I’m enjoying a strong cup of coffee on the stairs of a big house me and my partner are staying at for one and a half weeks. We are taking care of a dog – you can see her in the photo as well.

It was mostly a spur-of-the-moment decision, to volunteer as care-takers for a dog and a house. I saw a friend’s post on Facebook, asking if someone had the time to take care of her dog while she was away, and we decided to take up the challenge.

The house is a 25-minute drive away from the city in the middle of the beautiful nature of Finland. Comparing to the life in the city, this place is a whole other world. In the morning you hear two roosters crowing in different directions and in the evening the crickets dominate the world of sounds. The nearest food store is at least five kilometers away which means we seldom leave this place, only when we must.

The calming, simple way of living does good for my soul and mind. I feel relaxed, calm and free from stress. It feels great, and it definitely feels like something I’ve been needing for the last few months.

For the last week, I have been focusing on sleeping, cooking, analyzing reality-tv-competitions (how you can guess the winner and the looser of the episode by watching the interviews they show during the episode) and taking care of the old labrador lady who loves food and proper belly rubs.

As you might guess, I’m feeling pretty relaxed (although sometimes it feels like my dog allergies are getting the better of me).

And what do you think, how do I feel about quitting my job? You might guess that I’m still feeling good about that. And my friend – you guessed right. I am feeling good. I feel like I’ve actually shown respect towards myself. I still feel like I did the right thing. I did do the right thing.

We are returning back to the city on Sunday. On Monday, it’ll be a proper start on my writing routines. But for now, I’ll just enjoy myself and the company of my partner and the dog.

See you on Thursday!