As I watched daylight creep into view outside my office window Tuesday, I was reminded of a lecture from a college journalism professor many moons ago.
It centered on why journalists do what they do. The answer is two fold, my professor told me. It’s in a journalist’s blood to fight the good fight for they do it for the love of the game.
My teacher referred to the journalism business as a game, one which is often trying to play, yet at the same time very rewarding when you accomplish some level of victory.
For closing in on two decades now I have been playing the game. There have been some victories and some defeats. Yet, even after so much time has elapsed, the victories are still special. They still make me feel like the battle is worth it. I suppose if I ever reach the point where the victories don’t seem like much, I’ll know it’s time to quit. Fortunately, I haven’t reach that point yet.
The journalism game is a rougher one than most can imagine it. Unless you have been a part of, even at the community level like with the newspaper you are now reading, it’s impossible to understand what the people go through. The long, grueling hours, the less than desirable pay and literal aches and pains I’ve been feeling in recent months are all part of the game I deal with on a weekly basis.
Yet, as I forced myself out of bed Tuesday morning with rain falling and darkness still ahead, I thought to myself how I was accomplishing something by doing so. By making a living, however humble, through the First Amendment, I am part of something special. I am part of a group of hard-working people who look out for the average citizen and make sure their taxdollars aren’t being misused. I’m part of a group of people who keep elected officials honest and don’t let things happen under the table, in dark-filled rooms, behind closed doors.
It’s also about, for me at least, giving credit to the local student-athlete for something he or she accomplishes. It’s about writing a story on a local rivalry and covering a team which makes it to the playoffs after months or even years of work.
Years ago, I chartered my course in the community newspaper business. At the time, some colleagues questioned it. After all, wasn’t it the goal of every journalist worth his or her notebook to write for a monster daily and be the next Woodward or Bernstein?
While I certainly consider both of them journalistic heroes, there are also battles to win at the local level. There are issues, believe it or not, just as important to readers of this paper, in this same community.
Plus, to show how everything changes, the big monster dailies, through bad business decisions which could take up another column entirely, are on life support with many gone all together. The future of newspapers — printed ones anyway — just may be like the issue you are now reading. There will likely always be a role for them in communities in our state and country.
So I wage on, getting up before dawn, in the rain, to assure you will receive another issue like you have become accustomed to. It’s a battle for sure. Each week brings new challenges. Yet that challenge still inspires me and I’m glad I’m still in “the game.”
Somehow, I think my old college professor would be proud, at least to some degree. I’m still on the team. I know not everyone from that class still is. I’m not ready to be taken out of the contest just yet. There’s still way too much to accomplish. Let’s play on.
Chris Bridges is an editor with Mainstreet Newspapers. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.