Sunday, April 13, 2014

Journalism - Is it worth the stress

Feral horses out on the Bible Springs 
Complex in Iron County.  This photo 
was taken for a story I was working on 
the last two weeks on the mismanagement 
of wild horses on the range.
Well I haven't written on here for a long time. When I started this blog I had really good intentions and high expectations but like so many other things in my life, it has come second to my full-time job as a journalist.

Today as I woke with dark circles under my eyes from not getting enough sleep and an upset stomach from all the stress I've been dealing with lately, I decided today is just as good as any to update my blog.

So I was Googling the other day a search on stress and journalists and I found all kinds of information including the fact that for the last two years news reporters are listed as one of the top 10 most stressful jobs  ranked even above police officers.

Really? You don't have to tell me. Since throwing myself into the newsroom again full time my stress level has skyrocketed into outer space.

Like some of the other jobs listed by journalism consumes a person. The news never stops and as such I never really have a day off.

I rarely eat but instead substitute lattes for breakfast and lunch. I spend late nights and early mornings trading sleep for time to respond to emails, texts, and phone calls - oh and Facebook messages. My days are long and quite frankly it's often thankless.

People are constantly mad at me for one thing or another either because they don't think I wrote the right angle or because I didn't get to write the story they wanted me to and most of the time that's because I was called off one story to go cover breaking news that took priority. But they don't understand that, for them their story is the most important.

People get mad at me because I didn't have enough room to quote them or because they think I quoted them wrong. They get mad because I wrote a story or because I didn't.

I'm constantly under pressure to meet deadlines. In fact, I'm convinced my editors, the copy desk and designers who are all dependent on me to dictate their time clocks, as they don't get to go home until all the reporters are finished, have a picture of my face above their desks saved just for those times they're waiting for my story to come across the network and throw darts at me while they patiently wait.

There's so much more I could go on and on. But really what it comes to down to is, deadlines, pressure, breaking news, getting the top story, finding a new angle for stories that have been rehashed over and over again by other media, a lot of sleepless nights, and no personal life.

Friends? Most of those left a long time ago realizing but not understanding I don't have time to grab a cup of coffee with them, let alone take time to build a relationship.

Then there's family. Many of my colleagues have opted through the years not to have children or even get married because this job is absolutely not conducive to a family.

This is where I often feel like a complete failure and wonder if I've made the right decision in my career. In fact through the years I've stopped working as a journalist because of this very reason. But this time around I decided I had given it up long enough I wasn't going to let my life pass by and not follow my passion.

That said though, it doesn't mean my choice doesn't come without internal conflicts. I often question whether I should be chasing a story or running around the park with my son and grand kids.

I'll be honest too, a couple of my adult daughters don't pass up a chance to tell me how I've fallen short in this area over the last few months when I haven't answered my phone to them because I'm in court, in a meeting, covering an event, on a breaking news scene, in an interview or on deadline.

I get it.

I'm not superwoman and I'm not good at balancing my life nor am I ever willing to walk away and give up a story and they resent it -- they always have -- which is why I chose years ago to give it up then and go home to be a full-time mom.

But I wasn't happy. In fact, I was miserable and I lost myself in that process.

I don't know maybe I should have done something else like become a hairstylist, librarian, teacher or just stayed home and never gone back to work.

But while I admit my job is stressful, it's thankless, and quite frankly it's horrible hours and low pay -- I love being a journalist and at the end of the day I have to believe that maybe I've made a difference and that makes everything else worth it.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What's going on behind the headlines?

I've had this blog created for quite some time and haven't wrote my first post. I finally have a minute to breath so I figured this was a great project to get up and going.

I haven't done a lot of opining in my career and definitely not a lot of columns.Recently however, I've had the chance to write the High Country Beat Column on Fridays for The Spectrum & Daily News. This has really challenged me as a reporter and a writer as I continue to try and find my voice.

Today, one of these columns came out discussing what happened this last week with reopening of the National Parks in Utah -- an issue I broke the story on Monday when various county commissioners in southern Utah declared their areas in a State of Emergency. From that point forward the rest of my week was taken up solely with this subject. Things were crazy as the situation continued to unfold and change minute to minute and hour to hour. And as it did, we as the media were tasked with covering it. One person compared it to following a government soap opera. That is exactly what it was.

There were a lot of things that went on behind the scenes during this last week that I had the opportunity of being privy to. A lot of it I was able to report on and some I wasn't. One of these things was when our local sheriffs were threatened  by the federal government with federal indictments if they crossed those lines into the parks.

I was so angry when I learned of this. I felt strongly it was the right of the people to know that this had transpired but was asked not to go forward with the information as the government felt it might rock the boat too much and change what little progress they had made so far. I respected that and kept my mouth shut until today when it came out in my Friday column for the newspaper.

Still there were things that I didn't write in this column because of space I feel is important to bring out now.

First, the local officials that work for the federal government tried their hardest to come to a compromise with our local authorities but in the end they were faced themselves with either letting the sheriffs walk through those gates and possibly losing their jobs or following orders by laying out the possible consequences if the sheriffs "disobeyed" the federal government.

As I said in my column, it became crystal clear then just how dependent we have become on our federal government and not only how dependent, but how much power we have handed them.

Here's what I want to emphasize -- when I grew up in southern Utah -- there were absolutely no federal law enforcement officers patrolling the federal lands and national parks. It was done strictly by our sheriffs. Now maybe it's difficult to understand for someone who hasn't had the chance to experience the alternative but let me say, it's a lot different. We had a lot more freedom growing up and cruising around on our public lands than is offered today. There were no boundaries, fences or gates that kept us out. There were no places we couldn't go.

I understand how things have changed. The world has grown, the areas in Southern Utah have exploded in population and there are 3 million visitors to Zion a year now. So I get that inevitably things would have to change but I argue they didn't have to change to what we have today, which is tyrannical federal government who believes in using militant law enforcement tactics.

So what happened? Why didn't we evolve differently than we have. It's my argument, we didn't because more people than naught wanted the federal government to take care of them and until the American people are willing to stand up and accept responsibility -- financially, governmentally, physically and personally absolutely nothing is going to change.

We have got to be responsible for these things and to do that it means some sacrifice on our part.

Maybe even doing some things that make our lives a little uncomfortable like paying higher taxes in Utah rather than paying them to the federal government, but at least it's local legislators that will be spending our money -- legislators that listen to their constituents that aren't so far removed from us that they have no idea our needs or wishes.

Maybe it means taking a little time to educate ourselves about who's running for county commission, city council and mayor and then taking time out of your day to go vote when it's a local election. Maybe it's taking two jobs instead of one to cover your own expenses rather than taking government handouts. Maybe it's having the willingness to write your legislator and tell him what you think, even if your opinion differs from his -- remember they're entrusted servants only.

Maybe it's taking some responsibility for planning your own retirement rather than depending on the federal government. Maybe it's about not calling the police every time your neighbor's dog gets in your yard but instead knocking on their door and sitting down and talking. Maybe it's about just having a neighborhood watch or a weekly service project to go clean up the canyons instead of depending on government to do what we should be doing anyway, they're our lands. Maybe it's getting up a couple of hours earlier to sit down with your kids and teach them instead of depending on the government to do it all.

Maybe none of this even matters and I'm completely wrong and even if we all did it nothing will change. But -- these things reflect the world I grew up in where neighbors knew each other and helped each other, where parents were responsible for their own kids instead of relying on government nannies, where we cleaned up our own public lands and spent time writing letters to our legislators, where our voice mattered in government, where there were far more ma and pa stores than corporate big boxes, where parents volunteered in the schools and participated in our lives.

I grew up in a world where we were taught that only ourselves were responsible for the ending of our lives and the consequences that ensued as a result of our choices were ours alone. I grew up in a world where people were responsible and accountable for society, their government leaders, and the decisions they made.

Food stamps, drug addiction, courtrooms filled with middle class kids and adults didn't exist in my world. Were there problems, did I live in a Leave it to Beaver series -- no. There were problems, there were issues but in the end it was about our own choices and we were responsible for that ending.

I think it's time we return to some of those values that made America great, that took us to the moon, made us victors of two world wars and a cold war -- an America where you grew up believing in something bigger than yourself where the word politician wasn't a synonym with words like crook and liar.

No -- it wasn't perfect and yes it was all through a little girl's eyes but bottom line, I truly believe we have allowed ourselves to get where we are because we have not been willing to accept any responsibility for what is going on around us and our personal lives. And I believe it's high time we do and we teach our children to do the same.

Instead of spending all this money on a war on drugs that was lost years ago -- don't you think that same money would be better spent on giving our children the skills to make responsible and accountable choices and in teaching them pride in country, love of God, loyalty to family, responsibility for one's choices and the self-esteem that comes from good old fashioned hard work. To teach them it's okay to march to the beat of their own drum, to have ingenuity, creativity and to ask questions. Those are just some of the things that made this country great and those are the things that were taught in a time when government didn't have control of our lives but instead were run by the people for the people.