Seventeen years, while not a great amount of time in the grand scheme of things, does take a while to pass by.
For it has been 17 years since I began working in the journalism business as a professional. I could add years to that if I included the time I spent contributing to various publications during my college years, but it was a little more than 17 years ago when I was hired for the first time as a professional.
While the gray in my hair shows it and the aching body proves it, it really doesn’t seem that long.
I still remember that first football season I worked as a professional. I was able to watch entire practice sessions and felt like a real beat reporter, being there day in and day. For a football junkie like myself, it was a taste of heaven. Even with the summer sun beating down during preseason practice, I didn’t seem to mind. Perhaps, youth had something to do with it (I wasn’t that much older than the players themselves at that juncture) or perhaps it was the fact there was still a long road ahead in terms of what I needed to learn.
Seventeen years. I could calculate the number of days that has been but I know it’s a large number and one I’m proud of. Realizing some of my college classmates who finished with a degree in journalism never even went into the field at all, 17 years is something of a milestone I think.
It’s hard to explain to those on the outside just how tough this business can be. The hours are long, the pay not so great and at times you wonder how much progress you are really making. It’s all about motivation and I suppose it’s that way for all professions. No one really knows, unless you work in it, what obstacles are faced on a daily basis.
For us, we’re starting from scratch each week. I’m my own toughest critic and often I don’t even look closely after the paper is printed because I know I will see things I should have done different. Even the smallest of mistakes (which are in every newspaper in the country, big and small) drive me crazy.
Yet, there’s still something about seeing a new edition once it’s complete. There’s something special about seeing people around town buying a copy of the paper as soon as it’s put in one of our boxes. There’s something special about a call from someone who says they appreciate what you are doing or appreciate you taking a stand when no one else would.
These are the things which provide the motivation to keep going, to keep fighting the good fight, to keep this industry alive. Our ace photographer, Jessica Brown, is just 17 herself, born only a few months before I got that first full time job all those years ago. Yet, in her, I’ve seen a new generation develop a passion for what you are now reading. A passion which helps keep me motivated when the mind and body scream that they want to stop.
Seventeen years is indeed a long time. It’s an entire generation coming of age, it’s babies becoming adults, it’s about seeing change in the place you live and it’s about trying each week to offer your readers something new, something unique.
The year 1993 was a milestone in my professional career as it signified the beginning. Seventeen years later, that beginning has led me down many roads. I’ve traveled this state covering sporting events and even basked in the spotlight for a few minutes as this paper was honored by its peers recently.
I feel fortunate to have had good teachers, both in school and in the real world of newspapers. Without them, I wouldn’t still be here today. In our unique situation locally with two newspapers, motivation will always be there to succeed, to go the extra mile and to do all we can on a daily basis.
My career, in some ways I suppose, has been like a child growing up. The future is a bright one and it’s one that I look forward to. It won’t be easy but then few things worth having are.
Chris Bridges is editor of the Barrow Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.