The journalist’s paradox

I just realized something very sad.

None of us got into this field for the money, that’s a given. We got into it to hopefully do meaningful work. But we quickly learned a cruel joke: that there are very few opportunities to do that kind of work or to even get a job that will eventually land us in a position to do it. So we end up having to do what? Do work we don’t want to do for precisely the reason we didn’t want to in the first place: for the money. 

Someone please tell me something positive about all this or else I might be depressed for days.


  1. Anonymous April 12, 2011

    Something positive about all this… Working on it.

    Let me start discursively, and come at it from the side. I’ve had a staggery career that included nuclear power, software development, instructional design, and all along writing, writing, writing. My income has gone up and down and is currently hovering about as low as it has been since my late teens (20 years ago), almost entirely earned from working as a clerk at the public library. I know, that’s not positive. I’m going there, I promise.

    Sneaking up on it: you’re not alone. There are lots of us trying to answer this very question in every field of work in the world. Agriculture, engineering, religion, education, bike building, movie-making, art… How do we make a reasonable income while making the world a better place? How do we adapt? How do we do better?

    So coming up to something positive in all of this: all of those fields are reaching critical capacity at the same time. The stories need to be told. There is a whole alternative economy growing in the background, and meaning-making is a vital component of it, because it requires a loud counter-narrative to sustain its momentum.

    Oh, and I’m reading your work because of social media, precisely because of the pollinators you described below. And I’d love to hear more of what you have to say.

    Is that going in the right direction?

  2. Anna Tarkov April 12, 2011

    Seonaid: Positive feedback is always welcome, so that definitely helps a bit. But as I enter my third decade, I’m definitely reaching the end of a time when adoration and adulation was sufficient to keep me going.

    Going forward, I’ll also require some degree of autonomy in my work, the respect of my peers, increased responsibility and one day hopefully a position in which I can actually make major decisions. That’s what I’m struggling with and am unsure how to make it happen. The common suggestion is to run my own business, but I’m still somewhat skeptical of that as a viable option as I wrote here:

  3. Anonymous April 12, 2011

    I understand. I’m coming up on my fourth decade, and I’m still looking for those things. I’ve even had them a couple of times, but the compromises! Oh, the compromises!

    I worked in faculty development at a big university, and I got invited to VP Academics’ meetings on strategic directions, program planning, and graduate expectations for the entire university. And then after we developed great and grandiose plans, I went back to try and implement them with professors who were quite happy to do things the way they had been doing them for the previous 20 years. I often described my work as being like trying to turn a battleship with a feather.

    I know I’m just a stranger on the internet, but I wanted you to know that (despite all evidence to the contrary) I’m pretty sure that everything that you are looking for is possible, and is just a matter of time. Because there are too many of us looking for the same things to live with this life of compromise and not-enough any more. And we desperately need good journalism, good story telling, and passionate direction.

    And in the meantime, even in the midst of compromise, there is a network of fellow-thinkers out there, sharing, striving, and reaching together to create this something new. Even though we don’t know what it is.

    And if it’s not helping, I’ll stop now. Because you sounded like you could use a little boost, but I certainly don’t want to make things worse.
    All the best, from one dilettante to another.

  4. Anna Tarkov April 12, 2011

    A good pep talk always helps :) Thanks for taking the time to give me one.

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