I’m a reporter and humor columnist for a large daily newspaper.
How would you describe what you do?
In any given day, I can cover anything – closing of a school health clinic, birth of an elephant at the zoo, political protesters, a medical discovery. It’s fantastically fun for someone who’s curious.
What does your work entail?
I’m responsible for almost all my story ideas, so I spend a lot of time talking to people and reading. Then I’m responsible for researching, interviewing and reporting. Then I write up my stories.
What’s a typical work week like?
Every week I’m responsible for one humor column. My goal is to be funny without making fun of people, unless they really deserve it. I have to come up with all my own ideas.
I try to find things that are quirky and weird or things that wouldn’t normally be written about in the daily course of news coverage. In addition to that, I write news stories – maybe a dozen or so week depending on what’s happening. I also try to have one major project every month.
How did you get started?
I’m interested in so many things, so it was hard for me to choose a major before I went to college. My mom was a high school guidance counselor, so she told me to major in whatever was my favorite class. My absolute favorite class was newspaper, so I decided to major in journalism. I was lucky because I never changed my major and I got a job right away in my field of work. I’m so, so lucky.
What do you like about what you do?
Every day I get to do something that I feel like makes a difference in the world. I get to be a voice for people who don’t have access to money or power. I also serve as a watchdog of our government.
What do you dislike?
As a columnist, readers are really free and harsh with their criticism. I’ve been called all kinds of things – stupid, fat, worthless. It hurts. I’m a regular person. But I’ve stopped reading those emails and listening to those voicemails. I don’t want to let strangers take away what I love to do.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I’m on salary.
How much money do you make as a reporter?
How much money do you make starting out?
Are there any perks associated with what you do?
The best perk is that I get to go out and do really fun things during my regular work day. Who else gets to go to an alpaca farm or the zoo or a pastry festival for work?
What education or skills are needed to be a reporter?
I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism, but I work with people who have degrees in all kinds of fields. For example, our fine arts reporter is a former band director.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Right now, the biggest challenge is to stay positive and motivated during a time when everyone says print is dying. It makes my heart ache to think that newspapers might not exist one day, but the world will always need storytellers. As a reporter, what you do is about the story – not you. So whether the story is told in ink or online doesn’t matter. The point is to tell the story.
What is most rewarding?
Making a difference. I love when something I write stirs people to action. Even a short story about a homeless shelter fundraiser can help connect volunteers and money to a group that could use the help.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Don’t listen to the hacks. If you’re a storyteller, do that. There are still jobs in journalism to be had. It’s not like you’re going into carriage making or Model T manufacturing.
How much time off do you get/take?
I get three weeks off a year, but my company is great about given me extra unpaid time off for volunteer work I do overseas.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
Everybody thinks we only report negative news. This is absolutely not true. We can only write about what we know about. If people want to see a story written, call or email the newspaper. Let us know. We want to know about good things.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
I have two big goals: to run the paper where I work and to become a syndicated columnist. I also have two books in the works, but I really need to quit slacking and get on it.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
One Christmas, I went home to visit my parents and on the bulletin board in our laundry room was a laminated newspaper clipping from 1985. I was 3 years old and my photograph ran in our local paper. I was watching the fair parade. My mom cut that out and kept it for decades. That’s what I love about my job. People cut out what I do every day and save it for their rest of their lives. That’s really special. I try to remember that every day. That’s why I want to get every single thing right.