Sunday, October 10, 2010

The unofficial major

I was an English major in college. Sometimes I still act like one. I was also a psych minor. It feels very important to mention that I have 18 whole hours of psychology under my belt, putting me a mere 43 credit hours away from a degree that actually matters. But I also like to tell people I was an unofficial journalism major. Just for fun.

When I started out at college, I rolled my eyes when I discovered that writing for the campus yearbook and newspaper were requirements for my degree. I really did not want to work on the newspaper. I thought it would be too fast-paced and political and stressful and boring. My plan was to do whatever I had to do to get the credits I needed as quickly as possible, then focus my energies on the yearbook, which, I thought, promised boatloads of learning experience and fun.

Haha. That's a funny story to share with my fellow English major friends. We laugh at the irony. Because what happened, friends, was quite the opposite. I took the newspaper course because I had to and by the time I graduated, I was managing editor. I didn't mind yearbook, but I just found newspaper to be more interesting after all. I liked seeing my name in print - and often - and as it turns out, I work well under a deadline. With the yearbook, we wouldn't see the fruits of our labors until the end of the year and it was hard to motivate myself to write something I wouldn't see for a while.

Oh, the memories we made on the newspaper staff. Late nights. Quizno's runs. Inside jokes. Red ink everywhere (my friend A and I were not shy with our copy editing chops. Not even a little bit). We dealt with plagiarism, deadlines and scandals. When our school was added to Facebook's list of networks, it made the front page. I'm not saying we were the sharpest journalists all the time, but we had fun with it regardless. Leaving the paper was probably the hardest part for me about graduating.

When I went to college, I really thought I would end up as a book or magazine editor. By the time I left, I was seriously considering a career as a journalist. But out in the real world, I didn't do as well. I freelanced for a couple of local papers, but it just wasn't the same. I worried about misunderstanding information and writing the wrong article. I stressed over deadlines and found my little pile of money dwindling as I poured it into my gas tank so I could drive all over town pursuing stories. Even though I never stopped loving words or writing them, journalism - the hardcore, breaking news, scandal-exposing, following-up-with-leads kind - wasn't quite for me. Instead, I found a job at a publishing company and now I prepare comics pages for newspapers around the country. Not exactly the hard-hitting journalism I had envisioned, but I'm okay with it.

Sometimes in my cushy comics job, I forget what it was like - the thrill of getting a story, the particular joy that comes from seeing your byline. Some might call that narcissistic, but writers write to be read, no? It's what we do and having a byline just validates a passion. I visited a newspaper office a few weeks ago. It was old and lovely and crumbling and full of history. As I followed my guide past a maze of gray cubes, through dilapidated hallways and over worn tile, I inhaled the mustiness. It's a particular smell, one that can only come from history, deadlines, ink and passion. It smells like journalism, I thought. And I smiled.

Got a question? I'd still like to know what you'd like to know, you know? This may or may not also be a shameless plug for comments. Either way, I'd love to hear from you!

1 comment:

  1. I have that Lois Lane pipe dream occasionally, but I'm terribly adverse to stress. It doesn't seem like the right thing for me. Nice to dream though.

    Your cushy comics job sounds pretty awesome.

    AND, I thought of another question for you. Does your amplification make your own voice sound more like other people hear it or do you still have a unique head voice? I'm not sure how you'd know how other people hear you, but do are you shocked by the sound of your own voice on answering machines and home movies? Or does your amplification alter your own perception?