The last post I made of any substance was a big move, marriage, baby, and home purchase ago.
As of about 20 hours ago, I have another big change. I am no longer a journalist. The mixture of sadness and relief is hard to describe. It's a bit like leaving a bad relationship when you are still in love but know that the other person doesn't want the same things and will never give you what you truly want or need.
The news this week was full of stories about Pulitzer winners who have left journalism in search of anything that will pay the rent. People who love what they do but wanted to get ahead of the layoff notices and avoid joining the ranks of the unemployed.
I may not have a Pulitzer, but I'm now among the industry refugees, fleeing a job I once felt passion for to find financial stability and skills that can transfer beyond a current employer.
My husband and I have known for years that having two people working in journalism wasn't sustainable if we wanted to be homeowners and raise a family. The birth of our daughter six months ago cemented that. A big part of the issue is our hours. As a copy editor I work nights and coming home at 11 p.m., but getting up at 6 to take care of the baby was exhausting. I wanted to be home in the evenings not only to sleep, but to make sure I could put my baby to bed and spend time with my husband. When my husband covered night meetings, we were paying babysitters in addition to day care that costs as much as our overpriced rent.
On top of that, the writing on the wall is getting more ominous. Our paper laid off two reporters shortly after I returned from maternity leave, and the industry seems to be trending toward centralized copy desks. There's no evidence that our company is planning that move, but my sense of job security was getting worse.
It's increasingly obvious that while those of us still crazy enough to work in print journalism are passionate about what we do, our industry doesn't love us. We're expected to continue to do more with less as the powers that be seem more and more clueless. None of us went into journalism to make money; but there's a difference between not wanting to be rich and wanting to pay rent and eat something other than top ramen for dinner. We want to have families and if not buy homes, drive reliable vehicles.
Journalists once joked about leaving for the "Dark Side," but it's no longer a joke. I hope print media get it together and stick around so that someone is still holding the government accountable. I still believe in the Fourth Estate; it just doesn't believe in me.
Monday, I begin a job in the communications office of a local school district. It has the lifestyle changes I wanted; I'll be working 8-5 and so will be able to put my baby to bed every night and get to bed at a reasonable hour. For the first time since we've known each other, my husband and I will have all our evenings together to cook dinner, cuddle in front of the TV, maybe do some housework. But it also has something far more important: stability and the opportunity to expand my skill set. I could have stayed in journalism another few years, adding more multi-media skills that while fun, don't help pay for my baby's day care or guarantee I'll still have a job the day after I learn them. But in my new position, I'll be able to really develop in a way that will make it possible to move on when I need to without having to relocate. I've never felt job stability as an adult; it's an exciting feeling.