It’s no secret that the internet wasn’t exactly great for newspapers. Anyone can be a journalist now. Anyone can espouse their views on politics, love, life and whatever else to a limitless potential audience.
Before dial-up modems were whirring and buzzing (I hope you hear that sound in your head right now), if you wanted your voice heard you almost had to go to the newspaper or radio station.
Not anymore. And when I get a chance to go home and kick my feet up, I find myself occasionally facing the same question we all have to ask ourselves from time to time.
“Why am I doing this?”
Everyone wants to be relevant. I’d like to think that everyone who picks up The Eagle Post, Kentucky New Era or whatever paper happens to pick me up that week flips straight to this space, hanging on my every word.
Realistically, there’s absolutely no chance that happens.
Not counting our online audience, more than 100,000 people have a chance to see this. Of course, not everyone in the southern Pennyrile picks up a newspaper. Not everyone who does has interested family. Not everyone who does ever even makes it to this opinion section. Not every one of those gives a flip what I put here.
That limits my audience quite a bit.
I’m not alone in this. How important is your job? Sure, maybe people appreciate what your industry does, but do they appreciate your role in it? Do they appreciate you? Do you get to go home every night and know that what you do is important? If so, count yourself among an incredibly lucky few. We might think otherwise, but the vast majority of us are easily replaced.
The New Era Media Group would go on tomorrow without me. You wouldn’t even notice. The same is likely true for your job.
So why do we do this?
For me, it’s definitely not the money. Small-town journalists get paid less than mid-level McDonald’s employees.
It’s not about recognition. Sure, people stop me every now and then to tell me they read this, they appreciate it — but it’s not like I’m getting recognized at the grocery store.
It isn’t about feeling like what I do is important, either. Sure, a free media is vital to our country, but like I wrote, my contributions could be replaced tomorrow.
It’s not for the awards. I’m not sneaking in this in to brag. While I definitely hang my Kentucky Press Association Awards triumphs on my wall, it’s not like anyone cares but me (and my resume).
It’s tough to write this, knowing who will read it, but I don’t do this for love, either. I love this, sure, but I’m not hopping out of my bed with a big smile on my face to cover Christian County Board of Education or Oak Grove City Council meetings. No offense guys.
I hope your reason is one covered above. Just working to pay the bills is as slow a death as cancer and just as painful.
If I ever reached that point, I’d just quit. Better destitute than miserable. No, there’s something I hold onto, something that keeps me going. Here’s a thought:
Likely, the things you do affect people in ways you barely even think about. How many days have you made without even having thought about it? Seriously. Linesmen work through storms just so we can have power. Have they ever considered how awesome it is to see those lights flicker back on after hours in the dark? The relief that gives? There are countless examples like that. For my money, it’s a great mindset to have.
Every week I sit down and hope against hope that someone — anyone — will read this and feel just a little bit better. That I might make someone’s day? That’s incredible. I count myself fortunate to even have that chance.
Maybe we’re not relevant on a big stage. Heck, maybe we’re not even big fish in our little pond. But if you brightened someone’s day, even a little, well … that’s a heck of a reason to keep going. That’s this week’s small victory.
(JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of the New Era Media Group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you also believe air conditioning is the world’s greatest invention.)