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How do you stay passionate about journalism at challenging times?

I want to be a journalist and one of the many questions I have about that particular career is how do you stay passionate about being a journalist when things are difficult/challenging. I'm curious about this because I know journalism can be very demanding and it has it's ups and downs as well as any other career but things such as discrimination and the hardships of getting a story an it actually being accurate!!! So I would really appreciate if you could help. #journalism #journalism #broadcast-media

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Barry’s Answer

Hi, Janee!

Thanks for reaching out. I know it can seem harrowing to consider jumping into the pool, since it seems like there's only a deep end and no wading pool.

I think the question you have to answer is, "What do you consider to be challenging times?" The political climate marks the BEST opportunity to dig in and do great work.

Never has the public more needed journalists to act as a watchdog, holding authority figures (not just gov't) accountable for their actions. That's a lot of what we do, and Lord knows, the opportunities there are practically limitless these days.

The challenge really is that the line between trained journalists and citizen journalists is becoming blurred. The public doesn't quite realize the nuanced but important distinctions that real reporters make from fake ones.

Even the founder of Gawker didn't realize it when he wantonly considered anything Hulk Hogan did as newsworthy, even when Gawker was unduly and recklessly violating his privacy. The Gawker guys were not what I would consider real journalists, either.

However, the law of averages suggest that some of the blogs & podcasts done by citizen journalists are not bad. That blurs the line, so it's hard for the public - and future (and current) bosses - to see the difference.

Yelling louder - as many in this business are doing to gain attention - doesn't make you a journalist. Pick a discipline - legal, science, NFL, etc - get to know the subject and the players in great depth, and you will eventually do great reporting.

Best of luck!

Barry Abrams

extremely helpful thank you very much! Janee W.

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Kathleen’s Answer

Hi Janee,

I’d like to add my voice to these excellent responses you’ve received. I, too, am interested to know what you mean by “these challenging times.” I don’t consider 2019 any more challenging than any of the years I’ve worked in international and national news media — or the years and events of my youth or those that preceded my birth.

The Cold War with the Soviet Union was challenging - so was World War II and World War I, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and the 9/11 Terror Attacks. Pick any natural disaster (earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, drought, wildfires, flooding, etc.), and how about the Ebola virus in Africa, the AIDs epidemic, the bird flu, the famine in Somalia, the dust bowl in the US in the early 1900s. Why stop there? The Revolutionary War, the French-Indian War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the French Revolution, the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger, the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters, the Romanian revolution to overthrow their communist dictator Ceaucescu — the dictatorships in Cuba, Zimbabwe and Venezuela —— a history book is FULL of examples that would seem troubling to anyone affected.

On the local level: traffic, tornadoes, blight, unemployment, potholes in roads, cities unable to pay their bills, crime, drugs, the current measles outbreaks, and even a city sports team that always loses — these can be viewed as challenges, too.

Journalists have been telling stories like these for centuries. At its purest form, it is about finding FACTS and sharing those facts with the public. Accuracy and accountability are key. It is true that A LOT of hard news cannot be described as “happy” news — in part, that’s because disasters and crises drive readership and TV ratings. The death of Michael Jackson was the lead story on some national TV networks for days, despite the fact that there were other equally newsworthy stories to cover.

You ask me, the worst day for the news media was when social media was included in editorial meetings and “what was trending” became a deciding factor in how we built our news hours. It’s because of this that the amount of news that actually makes it into a half hour broadcast is so limited.

I started as a TelePrompTer and camera operator in the studio of CNN Headline News. I then worked my way up from low writer on a show team, to number 2 writer, to number 1 writer which also served as associate producer. From there, I moved up to Copy Editor and then News Producer. I even served as Supervising Ness Producer. This entire and very excellent path allowed me to obtain an increasingly excellent foundation in editorial news judgment.

At my core, I am a storyteller, as are all journalists. We seek facts and information in order to share those stories with a wider audience — even if it’s just a community newspaper. Being that storyteller has been true for my entire career, which includes 10 years in Germany (Senior News Editor at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, freelance print journalist for global company magazines and book author), and working at CNN International when I moved back to the states, where I was a Senior Writer, Copy Editor, News Producer, and voice-approved Package Producer.

For journalists, your passion for the story you’ve been assigned and sharing it with others is what drives you. Facts are key.

Preparing yourself in advance of your career by mastering the basics is key, too. Solid writing and research skills, excellent grammar and spelling, plus geography and a knowledge and love of history have served me well — so has curiosity..... to know more, learn more and share more.

Kathleen recommends the following next steps:

Take some time to do some research and read about some of the other “challenges” I’ve mentioned that have happened throughout history. School textbooks these days don’t spend enough, if any, time on many of them. Talk to others who may have lived through some of those events — and learn what their experience was. Read books that go into greater depth.
Develop a healthy curiosity to always read more articles and do more research — gain all the facts and all the viewpoints. You can never have too much information.
If you decide to pursue a career in journalism- know that curiosity, solid research and fact-finding skills, and the ability to keep it to the facts only, will serve you well.
Be a lifelong learner!

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Kyle’s Answer

Hello Janee,

Thanks for reaching out with your excellent question ! #journalism is all about telling the real story, to the very best of your ability . Just like the challenges we face in everyday life , the same can exist while trying to capture an unfolding story in tv news . It might not be easy , it might have its emotional ups and downs, but at the end of the day you will be rewarded by knowing you told the absolute honest and best story to the television viewers at home. I'm sure you are passionate about your future career. Know that with passion , hard work , and believing in yourself , you can achieve your dreams .

Very truly ,

Kyle Bailey
Aviation Analyst

thank you very much extremely helpful!!! Janee W.

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Elida’s Answer

Hi, Janee. I LOVE your question. This is something that you, as somebody looking at the field, is asking, and something those of us who work in the field, struggle with every day.

The good news is that most of the journalists I know have always been passionate about the pursuit of truth, communication and the "public service" aspects of journalism, and that doesn't change, even though the profession has.

The other good news is that most of the journalists I know pursued the profession because they enjoy the challenges of the work changing every day ... and many have translated that passion toward surviving the changing landscape.

I've been lucky in my own career. I started as a reporter, and later switched to copy editing and worked as an assigning editor. I started in news and switched to sports. I moved from newspaper work to TV. At ESPN I've done like nine different jobs in 20 years ... and they've included journalism, TV production and digital media. The job I have now ... I'm a lead editor on our universal news desk, means I make decisions that impact all of our platforms ... TV, digital and radio ... all day long.

Back to your question. Be open to new experiences. Learn everything around you. Become as versatile as you can be. Those will help you weather the storms in the profession and give you options as times change.

In the end, journalists are naturally curious. Use that curiosity to your advantage and apply it to your own skills and your own profession.

Elida recommends the following next steps:

Explore all aspects of journalism now. Don't get locked into one medium.
Make sure you're learning skills that will translate across platforms.
Read, read, read. Everything you can get your hands on. The more familiar you are with different mediums, the more able you'll be to choose, to work and to survive the upheaval.
Remember that you're doing important work. No matter what medium you choose, how many times you change course, even when you get discouraged (and we all do). JOURNALISM IS IMPORTANT WORK. Embrace that.