Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Crisis=Opportunity

Yesterday was my last day as a reporter for the Ukiah Daily Journal.
It feels weird to say that because since March 2007 I have self identified as a full-time reporter of some kind for a daily newspaper. Starting out with no experience or credentials to speak of and after almost a year of freelancing for both print and radio news I obtained a position at the Reporter-Times in Martinsville, Ind. and four months later, in August of 2007, I started as a reporter for the Ukiah Daily Journal in Ukiah, Calif.
It’s also weird to be leaving this field I worked so hard to get into because I also happen to be the fourth generation in my family to work in the newspaper business. Both my mom’s grandfather and father owned and wrote for a slew of newspapers and she herself began as a columnist and eventually rose to the position of Lifestyle Editor for the Times-Mail in Bedford, Ind. I have pitch black newspaper ink that never dries coursing through my veins.
It would be a sore understatement to declare that I have a certain affinity for the format.
Like a lot of people with eyes, ears and a brain though I can tell that times they are ‘a changing. I don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows or any additional Bob Dylan references to know that there has been a seismic shift in the way people receive information even from when I started in this field.
Over the course of the last few months I’ve spent countless hours at work freaking myself out by Googling some combination of the words “future” and “newspapers.” As you might have guessed, none of the links I was directed towards were anything but frightening.
Surely you know the score so I won’t spend any more time rehashing the gory details. In short though, the whole thing seems to be going down in flames. There’s a million reasons from drops in advertising revenue to declining readership, but suffice it to say the future looks less than bright for print media.
The feeling I get most often from a review of these facts is first sadness and then overwhelming anger about how unfair this all is. The way it looks now I’ll never be able to write for a San Francisco Chronicle or New York Times because it seems even I keep chugging away at climbing this mountain there may not be a mountain left by the time I get to the top of it. I feel history has cheated me. I want a fair shot. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and dog gone it, people like me.
As far as feeling as if I’ve been cursed with being born in the wrong time, it seems like I ought to take a number and shut up about it from looking at everyone else’s take on their own situations. This portion of history has not been kind to anyone and any industry that was already teetering on the brink might have failed anyway. This crisis has just sped up what might have otherwise been a 10 year smooth decline we’d all have time to adjust to into a mere months-long frenzy akin to a Black Friday sale at Wal-Mart.
So what do I do with these feelings? I tried to turn them into action.
That’s why today I started my first day as a full time Head Writer at the local news site ukiahvalley.tv.
In short, it’s a digital newspaper that uses video instead of words to tell stories. After working my first full day there today I’m really excited about what I can do with this new format opportunity I’ve been presented with. I can already tell we’re going to do some great things.
The future is wide open for anyone who is brave enough to take it. I’m viewing this crisis of faith as an opportunity to stretch myself into new areas I never would have otherwise thought possible.

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