A reflection about the news business, through the lens of one peculiar career path

[NOTE: This was posted on Twitter, at my @richterific account, then on Facebook. My wife urged me to share it so more people could read it, so I’m posting it here. I made some minor edits, because Twitter ≠ Facebook ≠ blogs.]

I feel like writing a thread about how I got into journalism. 

But first, let me point out: I am still in journalism. Despite the news about the Reading Eagle bankruptcy, the upshot is that we are all still employed.

I’ve been at the paper a little more than eight years now, and I’ve been thinking about how I got into this crazy, precarious and rewarding business.

I entered journalism late in life. I was over 30 before I decided that it was the career I wanted. 

I spent my 20s alternating between wanting to be a philosopher (not a full-time gig) and a sketch comedian (also not a full-time gig, unless you’re incredibly funny). 

Neither really panned out. 

One day, after realizing all my favorite writers — John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Dave Barry — started out in newspapers, I decided to leave the field of title insurance for journalism. 

(Why was I in title insurance? It paid the rent and I was not as driven in my 20s as I should have been.)

So I took the obvious logical step for someone looking to get into the field: I applied for a job at the Associated Press bureau in Seattle. 

I didn’t get a job there, but I did start freelancing and made connections, writing for a bunch of community newspapers in the city. Back then, Seattle had a robust community journalism scene. 

Eventually I got offered a full-time gig, editing one of those community newspapers. I worked at the Ballard News-Tribune for three years.

Then I switched gears and moved back to Pennsylvania, taking a copy editing job at the Easton Express-Times, where they also let me write quite a bit. 

From there I came to the Reading Eagle, where I’ve held various jobs for the past eight-plus years. 

Every step along the way — all the varied, weird jobs I’ve held in this field I kinda stumbled into because Mark Twain did it once — I considered myself lucky to even be here. 

And it’s been that way every step along the way. Seventeen years in, I still think of myself as a relative newcomer to this game. 

Even on a day like today, I consider myself lucky. Not just lucky to be here; but lucky to be working with an amazing group of talented and passionate reporters, editors, photographers and designers. 

We work in an industry that is fraught with uncertainty, but we still do what we can to keep people informed and to hold public officials accountable. Some hate us for it; some think what we do has no value. 

But every single person I work with, and every one of my peers I’ve ever met at any other news organization, knows that that this field is important, that it has value. Without it, the public — not just our paying readers, but everyone — suffers.

As I said, I’m a newbie in this game. But I’ve never shaken the idealistic notion that journalism matters. And that it’s important. 

Yes, we are going through some tough financial times as an industry. But we still keep going. Because journalism matters. 

Today, the company I work for was rocked by some startling news. But the doors didn’t close. The presses didn’t stop. 

And we will keep going. 

If you got this far, thanks for reading. And if you don’t subscribe to your local paper, please start.

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