Monday, 22 October 2007

The Multi-Tiered Tower of Insecurity

I don't think that the profession of journalism works like a corporate ladder. It's more like a series of platforms with no stairs leading up to them, requiring a person to pull and clambor his or her way up. When a person finally struggles his or her way up, he or she feels a sense of accomplishment--that is, until he or she discovers the next platform up.

From an early age people told me that I was a "good writer." One doesn't realize how relative the word "good" is until her work is being railed upon by the instructor in the middle of her grad-level reporting class. In that context, good has no meaning and one is left to feel like all he or she is good for is sitting on the top of a rubbish heap, between brown banana peels and used condoms. Yeesh.

In print journalism there are rarely any superstars. Even if you are successful in your career by industry standards, the most fame you will receive will be when you write your tell-all book at the end. After that, you might be asked to speak at industry events or universities, but only then will you actually be recognized for all of the hard work you put forth.

As writers, most of us don't do it for the fame. We are content with our little byline and are happy to get whatever money we need to survive. We do it for its purpose in our lives and some of us do it for its more humanitarian purpose. Some of us do it for the excitement and the constant intake of knowledge, but little glory comes with our guts.

Sometimes I wonder, as I hurtle toward this uncertain future, if I am doing the right thing. I once attended a lecture by Ridley Pearson, a famous U.S. crime novel writer. He said that the difference between a writer and a non-writer is that a writer can't not write. I can't stop writing, no matter what I do, and little makes me happier. It's funny, I always thought that I needed to choose something to do with my life, but my profession chose me in a way. Sometimes I wish I'd been chosen by a more lucrative skill, but I suppose we can't all be millionaires.

The future of journalism is changing, however, and I am excited to be on the cusp of this technology boom. I feel kind of like a surfer, poised and ready to roll with the waves and catch the next one as the tide tumbles in. And, of course, when duty calls for it, I'm ready to dive in the salty fray, head first.

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