Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's been a long three months...

When I started this blog, I fully intended to, you know, actually post things on it.  But, as always, life gets in the way.  Since the last post, I moved, moved again, and started grad school.  Grad school and Chicago are, to borrow from the fictional, weirdsies.  In other words, it's complicated.

I left some great friends in DC, and some that I was just getting to know.  I came to a city where I have no ties, no contacts, and entered a program with a lot of very competitive people.  I left DC on top of the world and landed in Chicago at the middle of the pack.

But it's not all doom and gloom.  I'm learning a lot.  Like the fact that only crazy people attend hearings labeled as "public comment sessions."  And that teenagers are not good interview subjects.  And that I hate talking to members of the public in general, which is probably not the best quality for a journalism student.

Which leads me to the subject of today's post: Do I want to be a reporter, or do I want to want to be a reporter?

Generally, I have found the first two months of reporting like I find caving.  It's only good because you're eventually going to emerge into the warm, bright sunlight of day.  I hate the idea of doing it, I hate the act of doing it, but it feels great when it's over. 

I like the writing, editing, and publishing aspects of being a journalist.  But does best three out of four really cut it in this business.  Everyday I am surrounded by dozens of people who live to do the thing I hate the most.  Eighty of us are going to graduate next winter and be competing, many of us, for the same job.  Will it be enough that I like 75% of the job? 

On the first day of our newswriting class, the professors sent us out to the neighborhood to perform what is known as a man on the street interview.  They let us go out in pairs, but we had to interview eight people.  The idea of it struck fear in my heart, my palms began to sweat, and the immediate thought that came to my mind was "there is no way that I can do this."

We went out, asked eight people what they thought about some vandalism at a Synagogue, and headed back to campus.  It was awful, but it was done.  For the record, only one of our eight interviewees had even heard about the crime, which made for a difficult article, but in my mind, the hard part was over and I could breathe again.

It hasn't gotten any easier in the six weeks I've been here.

I want to love the reporting.  I want to love talking to absolute strangers and asking them personal questions about jobs and money.  I want to ask the right questions and walk out with a story that has a great character and a larger message.  At the very least, I want it to get easier.  But wanting and having are not the same thing.  And maybe wanting is not enough.

Yesterday was election day.  I watched the returns alone in my apartment, instead from behind a computer screen in the studio.  And I felt left out, like I needed to be there, working with everyone else to put together the show.  I missed my co-workers and I missed the thrill of live TV.  And isn't that enough?