I was asked – via Twitter – a provocative question today following my post featuring a young journalist asking advice: Knowing what about how journalism has changed, would you still do it and advise others to?
But it’s a question that requires a more nuanced answer.
I’ve been in the business nearly 40 years. I started when the newsroom used manual typewriters and literally glued together sheets of paper containing my words. The stories were marked up by a city editor using a pencil before the copy was sent by tube to the basement where typesetters prepared it for print.
Today, when I’m out in the field I can use my phone to take photos, videos and sent text back to my editor. From the field I can post a story on Facebook. I can Tweet it.
That, too, is journalism.
It’s hard to comprehend all the change.
But what remains?
If you like – no love – stories, then go into journalism.
But you have to love the process by which a story finds its way onto the printed page, or on the computer screen.
You have to be damn curious about people.
You have to learn how to get them to let you in, and then you have to listen.
You have to feel.
You have to embrace the doubts and fears and vulnerabilities that come with creating.
You have to admit that you are never going to write the perfect story. But you will do better next time.
You have to remember who you are writing for – the readers.
I received this letter from a reader not too long ago: You always take me along on your journey and let me feel the air, taste the food and smell all the elements that make your job so interesting. You also let me feel their pain and share in their joys.
Not a word about writing or journalism.
If you understand what that reader wrote me, if you feel it in your gut, then yes, go into journalism.
Finally, you see that photo at the top of my post?
Those are the only tools you need: A good pen, one that feels right in your hand, and a place to write down what you feel, see and hear.