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 ...

5 comments:

lifeofdi said...

That perfectly puts into words how I feel. Thanks for writing what I was too tired to figure out how to say.

Emilie said...

Oh, Brooke, that's kind of depressing. But I hear you. I promise you'll feel better tomorrow — once you get some sleep. Not a ton better, but a little bit. :)

Natalie said...

1. Get some sleep

2. Request a change in beats

3. It's kind of everyone right now -- I feel like America as a whole as depressed

4. I love you

5. I'd tell you to change careers, but you already are! You've got just a few months, enjoy it!

Kristen said...

I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is that it doesn't get any better in law school. In fact, it gets worse. You're constantly on assignment but not getting paid anything. The good news, however, is that after a while fretting about the depressing, dark and dizzy world, you start to feel numb, then you can just sit around waiting for the tingle.

Drew said...

Hmmm. I don't know what to say. I understand what your saying, it all makes sense. And since I used to be a photographer i guess we are the only ones happy at the papers. Who knows. Keep me posted on what happens and I hope the paper doesn't find your blog, it might be the end of your career there. :)