Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Look! Summer's no fun

I haven't blogged in forever and a certain co-worker gave me crap for that so here is my triumphant return.
Look! It's my remaining audience.
I'm more than a year into being a professional journalist and I'm about a month and a half into being terrifically burnt-out.

Summers apparently change as you become an adult and they also change tremendously when you become a journalist for a paper with only a handful of reporters available in the newsroom.

No longer do I have time for such frivolous things like swimming or seeing the sun. 

Now, I vigilantly wait for the next drug-fueled car crash or sex scandal to write up and further coax along my budding carpal tunnel syndrome.

As such, I've become a bright, sunshiny person.
Look! Another bright sunshiny person like me.
So, here's a bright, sunshiny, list of further things I've learned about  being a journalist during this summer of my discontent.

1. A large contingent of people you regularly cover hate you. Hate you to death. 

I'm not sure I can blame them. By its nature, being in the news usually denotes talking about some sort of tense or generally uncomfortable situation. It can also denote some kind of crisis, scandal, or worse, a Crisis of Scandals.
Look! Outside the lines: classic case of a Crisis of Scandals.
If I'm regularly covering a person, I generally know what's up and don't really need to ask very many questions, especially the in-depth types. So when I talk to them and ask a few more questions than, "Are (insert number) or (insert number) participating in (insert charity fundraiser)?" people get nervous. And then probably angry when they read the article the next day.

Obviously, that goes the same for any and every criminal story I ever write because mom and pop don't generally like seeing "(insert son's name) arrested for (insert unspeakable crime)."

2. Counting calories sucks.

Although unrelated to being a journalist at first glance, one of my few pleasures when there's no spot news was breaking my unremitting stare at a computer screen by going downstairs and grabbing a Cherry Coke from the vending machine.

But since I decided to stop being fat, Coke, and those brief, blissful trips to the vending machine, have become a thing of the past.

Look! The equivalent of being on the exercise bike for seven and a half hours.
3.  Police Scanners: Your best and worst friends.

Police scanners are vital to local newspapers like The Mercury. You find out what's going on quickly and are able to get out and get real, for-live spot news that reads so much better than a press release that simplifies a building housing aliens and their dear friend Elvis Pressley exploding into a million pieces into four uninteresting lines of words.
Look! This is what comes up when you type "Elvis alien" into Google image search.
However, as great as scanners are for writing news, they have a tremendous duality. Whenever you don't want them to, whether you're working on an incredibly in-depth, intricate story, about to grab food for the first time in 12 hours, or are three minutes from finishing your shift and going home, the scanner will bark something out like "automatic weapon fire reported" or "Tyrannosaurus eating children."

Both those cases are equally likely in my book, because automatic weapons fire never is actually automatic weapons fire or anything newsworthy, just like a Tyrannosaurus will never eat a child in Boyertown.

But if I hear it, which always seems to be two minutes before my shift ends, I can't not check it out. If this is the one time that someone snapped and pulled out his AR-15 or a T-Rex went after Tommy and Sally, if I missed it, I'd pretty much have to get fired.

And so I run on those scanner calls, putting off dates, drinking with friends, sports, all of the only types of things you want to do in the summer when you're 23. And, inevitably, after digging around, it becomes nothing, it's 9:30 p.m., and I still have an hour-long drive home.

But there is that duality, like I said.

In some cases, the scanner seems to feel bad for you, so on a slow day, it'll provide you with a little comedy.

Last week, a report came in of a man who nearly crashed his motorcycle.

"The workers at the quarry say they saw him. They think he's drunk. They said he almost crashed, got off, stood on the side of the road, then performed a sobriety test on himself. Then, I guess, he got back on the bike and drove off. So, because of that performance, the workers think he's drunk."


That was also the same day the scanner had a report of a domestic dispute outside of our coverage area where a man and his mother were fighting on their driveway outside. When police showed up, the two  said they were fighting because they "were trying to catch criminals."

So the scanner giveth (sometimes) and it taketh away (much more).

But, as burnt-out as I am, as much as my fingers hurt from pounding my keyboard (I really should type softer), I still like my job. It's still interesting, I still like the challenges, and I still feel proud of what I do.

I don't think that'll change, even as I bid goodbye to a lost summer.