“All you get is $200?” My friend asked incredulously. “Why would you work for so little?”
I leaned against the wall. “I mean, I guess I just love doing it. I would do it for free.”
“Still!” She said, spinning slightly in her chair. “It’s the principle of the thing.”
“Well, I don’t know. I guess I just really like it. I mean, journalism is what I want to do. Working for the paper is part of that.”
I walked home that night from the newsroom at 2:30 am.
This year, I will spend every Wednesday night locked in a back room of the student union, furiously reading, editing, re-reading, re-editing, panicking slightly, then reading again. Once the paper is sent to the printer–sometime between 11 and midnight–we start uploading the stories to the website, scheduled to be published in the morning.
At 1 am, it’s often me and my co-assistant editor blearily copy/pasting stories into WordPress, our editor-in-chief sticking it out with us until the end. The room is quiet, except for a few questions and maybe some soft music.
For some, there is nothing appealing in these long nights, and I understand. Sneaking into your room at 2 am leaves little time for homework or sleep. Stuffing interviews between classes and rewrites into scraps of weekend means your calendar is your best friend.
But I can’t imagine doing anything else.
It becomes addicting. I have the opportunity to attend events and speak with people I normally wouldn’t. I get to poke around in the inner workings of people and places and times.
Journalism is not just about politics or crime or the latest news. It is about stories. Those aspects are part of that, but journalism is essentially story-telling.
Well-written, fact-checked, AP-stylized storytelling, but storytelling all the same.
Journalism has granted me the privilege of telling the stories of the people around me. I am a voice for those who need it, a lens through which people can read about the interesting bits of life. Even when I write on things that aren’t of explicit interest to me, I still love it. When you get the opportunity to talk to people passionate about what they do, about what they love, you cannot help but get excited too. You cannot help but want to tell their story.
Journalism feeds my sense of adventure, but gives it a purpose. The adventure is no longer for its own sake, but to share it with others, too.
Seeing people read my articles, knowing I told a story they hadn’t previously heard, that I possibly inspired action or brought up emotion, is why I want to be a journalist. Through journalism, I am a storyteller, and stories are a powerful tool.
Being a storyteller makes the odd hours, late nights, stressed rewrites, long events, and, yes, even the low pay worth it.
All of it, somehow, means my favorite place in the world is the little back room on Wednesday nights, stuffed to the brim with papers and people, sipping on coffee, sharing stories with the world.
Perhaps, they pay me too much.