In response to the response

Image

A photographer took this picture while we covered a competitive eating event in West Palm Beach in 2008. The medium was corn on the cob, and one of the top competitors had a red beard that netted kernel after yellow kernel. Hence, the expression on my face.

This picture also serves as a great summary of the past few days for me. I started this blog as an outlet where I could share stories, when compelled, even if they fell outside the parameters of my daily work or freelance assignments. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I picked up my phone, rubbed my eyes and scrolled through the hundreds of interactions on the blog and through social media from people across the country and abroad.

As I post this update, 165,000 people have read “Why I left news.” Yes, I realize that a large metropolitan daily newspaper has a larger circulation than that. But after years of waking up with a story in nearly print every day, I never have experienced such a poignant response to anything I’ve written. The blog post is 1,457 words with one photo, decidedly less digestible than cat memes and screaming goat videos. Yet thousands of people read it, shared it and responded to it.

As I rode the bus to work Wednesday morning, I saw that one of my favorite Washington Post reporters had retweeted another journalist who shared the essay, and that a narrative writer whom I always admired had poked fun of the “About Me” section of my blog. How surreal.

And how ironic. After spending years as a reporter, I garnered the most attention after writing a Monday-night blog post about why I resigned from a newspaper. I heard from former colleagues, editors and even teachers. I heard from people who hated the post, and I understand and respect their position. I set up my blog to allow only comments that I had approved, so I manually allowed every comment when the post first caught fire, including the personal attacks.

While this experience was wholly unanticipated, I am deeply moved by the passionate discussion it evoked. Some readers publicly shared messages about trying to find peace with their own decisions to leave news, while others described sticking around and living in fear that they won’t make it to retirement. What a raw conversation.  

Thank you for taking the time to read my 1,457 words. And thank you for taking the time to respond to those words with whatever they made you feel.

 

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32 thoughts on “In response to the response

  1. Your blog went berserk on the web because it touches on some of the hottest issues in society right now – the demise of print journalism, the public’s insatiable appetite for content and the people at the center of it all – print journalists.

    I earned my bachelor’s in journalism in 2006 and after a cool job with MTV News and a job at a local TV station, I was burned out in a few short years. The stress of caring so much about something (journalists are one of the only people truly addicted to their jobs) combined with the stress of having that something not love you back. Lousy pay, high turnover in most newsrooms, the neverending barrage of news hitting at any moment, the thankless public who only knows how to criticize … it’s like being in love with someone who just doesn’t love you back, but they keep you around because you’ll do anything for them. It’s the most unhealthy relationship a person can have and you can’t ever really find happiness until you sever it and go in another direction.

    I’m glad you found a career that allows you to define yourself, rather than letting your job do it for you. You are clearly a very talented writer and your abilities will serve the public equally, no matter which side of the aisle you’re on (or if you just blog on the side, for that matter). Good luck in the future and know you’re not the first and you certainly won’t be the last to feel this way.

  2. I began my jump from college journalism to full-time professional not long before you did … shortly after 9/11, in fact. What I remember most about that time was that what I wanted out of a journalism career just couldn’t be met in an era where truth was so casually tossed around as a political football. And when the more high profile journalists don’t do their jobs well enough (as discussed lately marking the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War), you can sometimes feel a little miffed about what you hope to accomplish as a journalist.

    Conan O’Brien gave a terrific commencement speech to the graduating class at Dartmouth a couple of years ago (you easily YouTube it), and he talked about the lessons he learned following the debacle over “The Tonight Show.” The one lesson that stood out in my mind from his speech was this idea: Over time, what we want to do and become will likely change. What you wanted 10 years ago more than likely won’t be what you want 10 years from now. And that’s perfectly OK.

    You struck a chord, Allyson, one of I’ve been trying to articulate for years but just couldn’t find the right way to say it. You deserve the accolades. Nice work. 😉

  3. It was a wonderful piece. I was a television reporter for a few years before the opportunity to leave for a better job appeared. I took the leap, and I haven’t looked back.

    I left mainly for family and financial reasons. I don’t remember the first two years of my daughter’s life because I was at the station so much. The pay was horrible, and I was always stressed out. Now I have low stress, a much bigger salary and all the vacation time I can stand. Most importantly, I have so much more time with my family.

    As mentioned, you definitely hit home with that entry. Kudos again for the awesome work!

  4. Well said Allyson! Before coming to Live 5 I worked at newspapers in North Carolina. I went through furloughs, layoffs and pretty much everything you described in your previous blog post. It certainly was frustrating and I too questioned the industry for which I had always dreamed of being a part of. Working in News is a tough career choice both for the long hours and heavy workload and the microscopic pay scale. Moving into the digital side of the business was the way to go for me and I made that change several years ago and never looked back. I hope your new job at MUSC treats you well and I wish you the best of luck!

  5. I didn’t agree entirely with your original blog post — I’ve had the same rant for years and when people ask me about why I would stick with the field, I inevitably answer: “Oh, that’s easy. It’s the best job in the world.” (And that’s the same advice I give to my son, who’s planning a career in the field.) I still truly feel the ability to get paid to learn about the world (or even a small part of it) and break it down for the public and to see and experience what most others don’t is worth far more than a job with easier hours or better pay.

    That said, it strikes me what you’ve really discovered is the power of the Web vs. print — not exactly a secret at this point, but isn’t it remarkable how virality works and what it can to get your thoughts — and words — out there? I think you should blog and blog away frequently. You haven’t given up on journalism; you’ve just found a new — and arguably better — way to approach the craft. Congrats!

    From a former Palm Beach Post colleague…

  6. “I heard from people who hated the post, and I understand and respect their position” and “Thank you for taking the time to read my 1,457 words. And thank you for taking the time to respond to those words with whatever they made you feel.” Allyson, thank you for being ever the reporter even with your original opinion post and with your response. Thank you for saving your ire for the folks who really are to blame for the mess the media are in: the executives, who so much want a continuing fat profit margin that they’ll amputate big chunks of the pig they’ve been riding all these years. With three of its legs cut off, that pig isn’t moving so well anymore. I’m thinking that if I had been one of your regular readers, I would have followed you without suspicion. Now, my opinion of some of your many respondents is not nearly so high.

  7. I can only say that I agree with your decision. I always referred to reporting as a crack addiction. You know it’s bad for you, it consumes your life and you push everyone away. As for the critics, it has been said that those who have similar feelings but are are in denial will be the most vocal about their opposition. I left reporting six years ago when my son was born. I loved my job but I knew that I could not be able to raise a family and be a full time reporter. Since leaving I may not have found the career of my dreams, but I don’t regret choosing family over my career.

  8. Yes I think the newspaper state is in a weird situation. Blogging basically gave everyone a voice. Thank God for that. Although not everyone isnt made to be journalist, I believe keeping the people people informed about daily matters is still important, Thank you for giving an insight into the industry. I’ve never read such a vivid response like yours before.

  9. Ms. Bird :
    Your article is translated in Chinese,
    and is spreaded in Taiwan,
    I’ve read,
    The situation that you described in U.S,also is in Taiwan, and worse…….

  10. Your post broke my heart. I left the field in 1997, when it was still unimaginable that the newspaper business might fail. Working for a big metropolitan daily was the best job I’ve ever had — I LOVED working in newsrooms; I still have dreams about the adrenaline of working a big story. I think your post made me so sad because I am so glad I had the experience, and got out before the writing was on the wall. I don’t think I could bear it if, like you, I had to leave because the world had changed. Good luck to you — you have talent and I’m sure you will find a way to use it. How sad that the old way — which was so important and meaningful for those of us who chose it, is rapidly disappearing.

  11. Hey Allyson,
    My friend forwarded your post to me as I was wrestling with the opportunity to get back into broadcasting after 18 months away, but at a lower salary than I currently make in my store’s home theatre department. I decided I’d rather sell TVs than be on them and your words certainly strummed my pain! I’ve never been the type to talk about my inner conflict that had been eating away at me for the last couple of years. But I can’t thank you enough for doing this because the discussion opened my eyes to the fact that I wasn’t giving up. In fact, staying in the business would have meant giving up my chance to make a living wage and do the things I wanted to do in life. Your post helped make me feel whole again.
    Two days ago I told the inquiring news director, “Thanks but no thanks.” What happened was amazing. I grabbed a beer, messaged my friends for a little Call of Duty, and for the first time truly relaxed in and appreciated my beautiful apartment that I could finally pay for all by myself. All by working my job that doesn’t remotely require my college degree.
    I can’t thank you enough Allyson. I’m sure I’m like the hundredth person to offer you a drink, but seriously, if you’re ever in the Greensboro, North Carolina I’m your guy!

  12. Allyson,

    Professionals in all fields can share in your thoughts and emotions. Singling out reporters as a select group of professionals uniquely feeling under-appreciated, over-worked and way underpaid, is obviously incorrect. I’m sure you would easily agree. As I moved through my education, I carried images of a world-changing career and a fat wallet to boot. After 20 years as a professional in an unrelated field, I reflect your sentiments 100%. Unlike news reporting, which by the way drives most of our daily lives, there are intense moments of fulfillment separated by long months and years in the doldrums.

    I submit for your review an article I found this morning and it again reminded me of your thoughts so aptly recorded. Take a moment to read the following:

    http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/big-story/fourth-estate-20-puts-innovation-above-the-fold/372?tag=nl.e660&s_cid=e660&ttag=e660

    With respect and regard.

  13. The way I see it is you’ve graduated from what (the rhetorical) “they” wanted you to write once you realized it was time to move on (with the nudge or hard-shove of disenchantment and discontent) and now you’re writing what You have to say…which is what You’re here to do…and BEHOLD the validation, the affirmation of your greater Purpose…reminding all of us (the larger audience for such worthy things) that Life works just like this.

    Just wait and see what happens next!

    Good on ya, girl. 🙂

  14. I’m late to the party but very glad I made it.

    Not working for a daily newspaper has been a real struggle for me since moving to a trade publication in July of last year. Like you, I even started a blog as an outlet. I just want to say thank you for sharing. Knowing I’m not the only one out there trying to find the balance between happiness and sustainability in my career, gives me renewed strength.

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