why I don’t want to be a journalist

Not too long ago in a video interview, the man asking me all the questions for a position I really wanted threw me off guard. One question that really made me think, and one I believe ended up costing me the gig: If you studied journalism, why don’t you want to be a journalist?

At the time, sitting on my living room floor, probably worrying more about how loud that rain sounds outside than the coherence of my responses…I had to stop for a moment. “What a great question,” I likely started off. “Through my many experiences in educational and professional settings, I realized I wasn’t that great at it.”

Which is true: I worked my butt off in college. I would choose to write a million and one essays over a news article in the specific Associated Press style, any day of the week. Don’t even get me started on broadcast…

But conveying why I don’t want to be a journalist to someone who’s looking for a focused, articulate employee? I cannot remember what I said, but it probably portrayed me as someone who’s a tad confused.

If I know one thing for sure about what I want out of my life, it’s that I don’t want to be a journalist. Plenty of college graduates earn degrees they’d never make a living from. Yet here I am, justifying my decisions. There’s controversy around this field, and someone who’s learned and seen things from the inside should speak on it. Yup, you guessed it; that someone is me. Here’s a coherent answer as to why I don’t want to be a journalist.

you’re the middleman messenger.

If we didn’t have journalists on the scene, we wouldn’t know what the heck is going on beyond our own lives. That’s not entirely true, especially with “citizen journalists” giving us the lowdown on Twitter, but you have to start somewhere.

According to journalistic ethics, if you’re a journalist, you write without bias. It’s straight hard truth (that’s what she said). When you’re on the scene, you don’t get involved. Just to talk to the actors, get the story, and publish it. 

I don’t want to be a journalist because I have convictions about our world, and those opinions inspire me to act. I’m personally not motivated by passively seeing others marching for a cause; I want to be in the crowd, speaking on others’ behalf, directly evoking change.

There’s a reason I only ever wrote and edited the opinion section. I’m passionate about many causes. My purpose is not to watch events and write words; instead, I’m meant to put action behind the words. Take a stance. Do what it takes to make a difference.

the industry is cutthroat but sloppy.

The world of journalism swallowed me alive and spit me out like a white boy randomly spitting on the sidewalk. (Someone, please enlighten me: why is that a thing?)

I don’t want to be a journalist because the press is an industry that exists in a weird juxtaposition between outdated media and modern consumption habits. Not only does journalism want to stay relevant, but it also wants to produce everything all at once. To meet 24/7 multimedia demands, if you want to make it as a journalist, you better write, photograph, and record video within an hour of the event.

Since we need constant new content to read, the latest news on every little detail, an editor’s careful touch goes out the window. Retractions and corrections come out as often as the stories themselves. No wonder the “fake news” is such a huge—and reasonable—concern.

With as many mistakes as there are, my experiences reflect how hypocritical journalists can be. Simply put, I made one mistake, and I was out for good. My reputation, ruined. My prospects as a journalist, nonexistent. I, an intern trying to learn, lost out on a career before it ever began. And yet apparently Obama isn’t an American citizen and vaccines cause autism.

If your colleagues are ready to, in a moment’s notice, throw you under the bus whilst they make grammatical errors in every article, that’s not a place I want to work.

you write without personality.

As you can likely tell, I love writing. It’s how I best articulate my unique voice for others to fully comprehend. I jumble up my words when speaking and probably use “like” far too often. Hence my anxiety around interviews.

I originally chose an undergraduate degree in journalism because it was “applicable writing.” English has always been my favorite subject, but I knew the only practical means of using that degree is by teaching. I didn’t want to teach, so I guess journalism won out.

But the styles in which you write are drastically different. English champions those who differentiate their words and widen their vocabularies. Journalism, not so much. You get the words out as easily and simply as you possibly can. So, instead of saying, “I crave learning more intricate details about how this beautiful orb called Earth breathes,” you’d say in a newscast, “I like learning about Earth.”

The only times I’ve really struggled with writing were 1) when an English professor taught the class because those folks are either the most fun or the most strict and nitpicky instructors, and 2) basically any newswriting class I ever took. Associated Press style has different rules, an entirely different structure to follow. I just couldn’t click with it.

I cannot say I didn’t try my hardest. Yes, I still got A’s in all those newswriting classes, but not without dedicating all my free time to writing every assignment, even those considered “easy.” There come points in life where you must ask God, are you testing me? Or are you nudging me in another direction? In this instance, the latter question rang true.

to sum it all up.

People can make a fuss over the press and fake news until the cows come home, but unless you’ve studied and worked firsthand within the muck-flinging, it’s hard to make fair judgments. Even if they’re probably correct. Whether you’re newswriting, acting, or even blogging—once you put yourself out there, people will do and say as they please.

Despite all I’ve said, I have immense respect for the role journalism plays in our world. You need that olive branch of information to translate a hubbub of action into a digestible situation. There’s a plethora of responsibility in being a “scientist’s scientist”: giving reason and explanation to researchers’, politicians’, and everyone else’s work.

I can respect journalism enough to confidently declare, I don’t want to be a journalist. My education wasn’t for waste: I’m grateful to understand how to create messages and utilize new media to reach intended audiences. Plus, we should all be more critical of what we read and watch. If we aren’t changing journalism, we can change media consumption and analysis.

We get to decide which outlets to support, ones that continually follow ethical etiquette of unbiased, high-quality reporting. That don’t rely upon clickbait for attention. That wholeheartedly support the writers and subjects of their content.

My final note: it’s okay to screw up. To pursue goals you end up not wanting. To admit you completely failed at what you thought was “your calling.” You are a human being who is allowed to make mistakes and change your mind. There’s no reason you must justify or apologize for your life.

I don’t want to be a journalist. I do want to be an activist, a writer, a spiritual leader, tree hugger, a loving daughter and sister, a hard-worker, a future significant other, a caregiver, a helper…and a person I can be proud of.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Author: Allie

A flower child passionate about faith, social justice, and love.

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