Monday, February 16, 2009

On burnout ...

There's a new area code in Utah. Because of the way our phone system is set up at work it means when I call someone I have to dial 9+1+8+0+1+seven more digits. It's exhausting. An additional four numbers should not be a big deal. I, however, am tired; so today they feel impossible.

Two of my friends and colleagues have already written about journalism burnout. (Here and here.) There's a study on the subject circulating the Web. The only ones really happy with their jobs are apparently photographers ... "Shutter-happy open-air freaks."

I'm so tired I want to throw up. I'm so wired on decongestant looking at a computer screen makes me dizzy. It's my own fault for trying to pack in 57.8 hours worth of activity into a 48-hour period. That's what you do when you're a journalist and you're approved for a little time off. It's so rare in this business of weekends and holidays you feel it's wasted if you spend some of it in REM sleep. So I went to Tennessee, forced my body awake the entire time and in three days I didn't look at a single Web site, newspaper or blog. I didn't watch the news and I never heard the static of a scanner. And the best/worst part is I didn't care. A small part of me wonders how much that means I suck as a journalist. That if I was as passionate as I claim to be that I would've missed the newsroom and probably wouldn't be applying to law school. That if I was any kind of credible reporter I would have jumped out of bed this morning eager to return to changing the world. That report made me feel better ... it's just possible it's not my passion that's in question. Maybe it's the industry.

A co-worker just turned to me and said she has a hard time sympathizing with steel workers upset over their hours being cut. Even at half-time pay they are making more than we will putting in 40 hours a week. It's not about the money. That's why it hurts so much. We can handle the crappy health insurance and never having any privacy because we can't afford rent on our own and buying cheap, used phones our editors use to keep us on call at any moment. It's all manageable and even rewarding when you love what you do. Another newspaper fails every day, raises seem unlikely and those of us still employed face "restructuring" -- a fancy name for expecting more with less but still we stay. Then editors are forced to talk about bottom lines and marketability instead of civic responsibility. Convergence feels more like entertainment than investigating. Ledes are changed, our writing is cut salvaging only the basic information because ad sales can't support anything more creative, Web deadlines are earlier and earlier and we begin to love it less. Superfluous changes like area codes and phone systems and colds are harder to manage because our job and our future feel out of control. One day those four extra numbers may be just one number too many.

To be continued ...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

On dating ...

I've been asked out through e-mail, via text and on Facebook. (And now I'm starting to sound like Drew Barrymore on the trailer of "He's Just Not That Into You.) But I still have yet to be asked out by e-card.

I'm sorry, but is it wrong this increases my desire to attend the U of U for law school? And I thought Utah State was cool for having "True Aggie" chapstick.

Monday, February 2, 2009

On financial freedom ...

A friend told me at lunch the other day the Standard-Examiner should pay me more. He was looking directly at my phone when he said it. He wouldn't even let me pay for my salad. "Go buy yourself a new phone, Brooke," he said signing the bill. It did look rather pathetic all scratched up and jimmy-rigged together. The poor thing has been dropped countless times -- asphalt, concrete, carpet, tile, sinks, under the car pedals, bags, pockets, and drawers.

One day it all came apart.

So I used a hair tie to put it back together. It's worked well, except when I press 'accept' for an incoming call and it hangs up on people instead or when I'm halfway through a text message and the band slides ever-so-slightly downward and it turns off. I decided if the hair tie didn't work I could always try piecing it together with cartoon character band-aids -- that would certainly be professional.

My co-worker's been offering for several days to find me a rubberband to replace the hair tie.

"Maybe it wouldn't be so thick," she offered helpfully.

I wholeheartedly agreed with both friends. The Standard should pay me more and sometime between lunch and yesterday afternoon I replaced the hair tie with a slim but snug rubberband. I began dreaming of a life where my paycheck could fund several gourmet salads per week and I smiled everytime I looked at my phone and found it neatly wrapped in tacky rubber instead of a hair accessory. My tune changed this evening when the rubberband started to lose elasticity and my tax refund landed in my checking account. Thanks to the incredibly low tax bracket I qualify for with my current salary, Uncle Sam gave me most of the money back I paid him this year. It was almost like he felt sorry for me. I wondered if the look of pity he gave my W-2 was similar to the looks of pity my phone's been getting. Now I'm grateful to you Standard-Examiner. Your commitment to the traditional low starting pay of journalists means two things: 1) thanks to my tax refund I am finally, and hopefully forever, 100 percent free of credit card debt and 2) I might just have enough left over to buy a new phone; or at least less expensive rubber bands.