Saturday, November 21, 2015

New Job, New Chapter

I graduated college in 2010. That feels like a lifetime ago. The last five years were filled with ups and downs, new friends, some losses, and altogether new experiences for me. The one constant in that time was my job: reporter.

Even before I finished school, I began my career as a professional journalist, getting paid by the story to cover Delaware City Council meetings and collect the sheriff and police reports. After graduation, I moved back to Northeast Ohio for a time before returning to Central Ohio where I was hired as a full-time reporter for Suburban News Publications. Even after the company was bought out by the Columbus Dispatch and I was laid off, I remained in the area and worked as a freelance reporter for a couple of different publications before being rehired full time as an editorial assistant. I still reported, but I also processed press releases, announcements, and other news briefs.

I remained in place for three years. In June, my company was sold again, and I grew worried about my future. My last experience with a buyout and merger left me snake bitten, and every day, I expected to receive a notice that my position would be eliminated. But I was lucky; it never came to that. I jumped ship to the dark side.

About a month ago, I started a new job as communications manager for a local library district. The overlap between careers is great. I'm still writing and working to get what I write out to the public. I'm still taking pictures, and I'm throwing in some editing and design work, acting as a sort of one-man band by assembling calendars, newsletters, press releases, and other documents. I'm also managing more business side operations, filling out requisitions and working with printers to get our documents produced. It's a lot of work, but at least I don't have to worry about weekly deadlines. I also have my own office, a first.

There's a joke among reporters that taking a public relations job like this is the journalist retirement plan. There is some truth to it. The job is less stressful, and it pays better. Getting out of journalism, I feel like I've done a tour of duty in the trenches, proving my worth and honing my skills. And with the uncertainty surrounding the future of the industry, the timing was pitch perfect. My hours are stable, my commute is shorter and less congested with traffic, and I don't have to work weekends or evenings anymore. I feel, for lack of a better word, safe.

Still, part of me misses the grunt work of reporting. I've traded independence for security. Instead of acting as a watchdog and informing the public of its leaders' actions or sharing important and/or interesting community news, I'm working for entity the watchdogs watch. As a reporter, my first responsibility was to seek the truth and report it. As a communications manager (or community relations coordinator, or public affairs director), my job is to get the library's story out there, to expose our brand to the public and make them want to come to the library and use its programs. Instead of fielding press releases and deciding which of them make the best stories, I'm writing press releases and hoping they'll get used as stories. It's a new mindset, one I'm still adjusting to.

I'm enjoying the new job so far. The people at the library are nice and welcoming, and the library is a service that is evolving to meet the needs of its customers, something I can't always say about the newspaper industry. It's an exciting time for me but a little nerve-wracking. The experience I gained as a journalist was invaluable, and I made a lot of friends with the people I worked with, friends whose job security I'm concerned for. I learned a lot about politics, government, economic development, law enforcement, business, education, and people in general. I made mistakes for all the readers to see, and I was publicly criticized for some of the stuff I wrote. There were some bad times, and it wasn't always the romantic profession of Woodward and Bernstein. It could be frustrating, painful, confusing, and tedious, but it helped shaped who I am.

I wouldn't have changed it for the world.

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