We often lose sleep over things like hurricanes and protests. What we “do” is sometimes hard to define and I often find myself having to explain it over again in great detail because (unfortunately) many people cannot grasp a job that isn’t 9-5 inside an office or isn’t painstakingly grueling. Work can be fun and exciting, in fact, if you’re going to be a working person your whole life wouldn’t you want to love and enjoy your job?
Journalism is truly a calling. You have to be curious, you need to “want to know” and have the drive to do something to find out. It’s having a natural inquisitiveness about the world. When put to the test, you often have to be bold and flexible, not settled into any kind of routine (trust me, there’s no such thing in journalism). One day you’re covering a massive hurricane the next day a global protest or uprising. I like to say that the day in the life of a journalist could be everything or nothing. One day you might be interviewing a new restaurant owner, the next: vigilante computer hackers that have taken down the government websites of Egypt. It’s totally unpredictable, but it’s so awesome when you find your beat.
Last Spring, when I had the honor of working for Tucker Carlson’s national news website The Daily Caller in Washington DC, my days consisted of scanning twitter, aggregating news stories, standing with other journalists for surprise attacks inside the Capitol building as Senate members made their way into the hallways, filming protesters outside The White House and finding myself wrapped up in a story about the activities of the online international vigilante subculture Anonymous. The story became my beat as I networked and built relationships with sources that, under the shroud of the internet, became major geopolitical players as the world changed.
Stories come and go and develop over time. This summer, accompanied by my good friend Steve-ohh of First Things First, we tracked and followed Hurricane Irene as she made her way up the coast on a direct path for the Jersey shore. After over 90% of Cape May County, New Jersey had been evacuated, it was thrilling to ride the story out as it unfolded with pictures, video and information we wouldn’t have had otherwise had we not decided to put ourselves in the center of the story. Setting up our own Hurricane command center, we became the source of information via blogging and twitter. Journalism is about walking into danger, rather than away from it.. finding out what’s happening and gaining an inside perspective from as many angles as possible to tell the full story.
More recently, as a result of the economic collapse and a shattered confidence in the American dream led to a Great Disruption that started as a protest on September 17th of this year in Manhattan’s financial district. Frustrated by the financial sectors influence on the government, economic injustice, taxation policies, high unemployment and the monied corruption of Democracy, the leaderless, now global Occupy Wall Street movement was formed. My friend Jess Stephan and I ventured into Manhattan that morning to get the story and watch as history unfolded. Today, the Occupy movement has been a story I have followed closely, watching as it shifts and changes, becomes skewed, smeared and in some cases hijacked and covered up. It’s been a fascinating story to observe and it brings a very necessary conversation into the limelight that would otherwise be swept under the carpet and buried by powerful authority.
Working for Atlantic City Weekly, I have been able to exclusively follow the Occupy Atlantic City protest movement. We came up with the idea of passing out small fliers to the Occupiers with an email address and Twitter hashtag so the people could take their own pictures, write their own messages and send them to the address and it would appear on a Live Coverage page we created. I felt that this was such a noble idea, to truly give the people a voice.
The job of a journalist should be to bend over backwards to give minority voices, from all ends of the political and ideological spectrum’s, a shot. It’s about providing a voice to the people, especially to those who would otherwise go unheard. You can even argue that without journalism and a free press, no democracy can survive, in essence, it wouldn’t be a democracy without journalism. It’s a service and a duty, to get the people the information, to hold governments and businesses accountable and promote an outlet for the irreplaceable element of public discourse. Thomas Jefferson said that he rather there be the press without the government rather than the government without the press. (I would say that phrase is my political stance).
Journalism is hard to define. It’s more than just being able to lay grammatical bricks in the right order really fast but also being able to truthfully explain difficult subjects in simple language. In its simplest form, it’s telling the story of what happened or is happening. Making it known. Writing the rough draft of history.
It’s long hours, random hours, strange hours, all hours sometimes, little sleep, long days, long nights, short days, short nights and short salaries, but to the journalist, its worth it, because they’re finding out about a story and sharing it with the world.
There is a sense of duty in giving the people the information so that they can make their own opinions. A journalist doesn’t have to be a robot that’s completely neutral without an opinion (thus why I have this blog). Of course one has their own beliefs and opinions but it’s a reporters job to tell the full story, with all of the information so that the people can decide for themselves, NOT so you can decide for them or tell them what to think, that is not journalism, that is agenda driven manipulation, and that has hijacked a lot of the mainstream media.. especially news media that is owned by people or corporations with specific political agendas and investments. To be an informed citizen, search out the news and not just someone or somethings version of it. However, it’s good to see other peoples versions of it too because it keeps for a rounded perspective (i.e. FOX and MSNBC)
Since I was super young I always knew I had a passion for writing as well as a deep curiosity and overactive imagination. It was only natural that both creative writing and journalism would become my vocation. To put it plainly, God didn’t create all of existence to merely retire and isn’t scared of questions, debates and information. Wouldn’t you rather paint your part of the picture and find out why you’re made the way you are? People should pursue their callings, their passions, talents and loves and if they’re unsure of what those things are, journey to find out. For me, there’s nothing more adventurous than a career that screams adventure.