BY ROBERT DIGITALE
Sometimes it’s nice to see your world through the eyes of another. When friends and acquaintances talk to me about the news business these days, they often want to extend to me their sympathies. I appreciate the concern. But after a few years of such conversations, it’s refreshing to hear someone say they might actually want to pursue a career in journalism.
Max Gordon, editor of the student newspaper at Sebstopol’s Analy High School and a graduating senior, spent part of a day during Spring Break visiting The Press Democrat newsroom.
At the time of his visit, Max already had been accepted at one excellent out-of-state college, and he was waiting to hear from two others. He exuded the enthusiasm of a young man with a big adventure in front of him. In the next four years, he’ll get to make lots of choices.
Over lunch he asked perceptive questions about the demands of a reporting career and the future of print newspapers. But for me the best part was watching his interaction with my colleagues: reporters, a photographer, a copy editor, a news researcher and two members of our online staff. Some were more optimistic than others about the future. Even so, he got good tips on what skills he will need in the news business of tomorrow (video editing/Word Press blogging/the use of social networking). And one our youngest reporters gave him some solid advice on whether to seek a career in journalism. If this is something you really love, she said, you’ll find a way to make it.
Newspapers had relatively few job openings three decades ago when I first came to The Press Democrat as a college intern (with visions of Woodward and Bernstein still dancing in the heads of most journalism students). Few of us expected to make a lot of money as news reporters. We took the jobs anyway.
Yes, that era seems golden now. In recent years this business has been turned upside down. Many talented colleagues have departed. And it’s hard not to worry that younger journalists will be making less and less money in the years ahead.
Common sense says that you get what you pay for. Won’t poor reporter salaries affect what all of us know about the world around us?
Perhaps, but experience has taught me this: People do what they want. There will always be those eager to explore life and tell others what they’ve learned. That’s journalism, whether it’s printed on paper or published online.
In the years ahead, Max may become a journalist or find some other passion to pursue. Either way, I wish him well. Regardless, I know that storytellers will still step forward, eager to tell the tales that matter to them. And someone out there will want to listen.