By Lynn Walsh | January 31st, 2011
By: Jacqueline Ingles
“I am not working Christmas.”
“What are your days off?”
These are two things I most recently heard fly around my newsroom from an intern (insert internal chuckle). All I wanted to ask was, “Are you joking?”
If these are your first two questions walking into the media world, please, exit left and do us all a favor. It led me to do a lot of thinking and I came to the conclusion
that reporting is a lifestyle, not a job.
Technically, I never have a day off. I work my sources seven days a week. And, just because I have two days off does not mean that my beat gets frozen in time. I cannot expect that on a Thursday and Friday Texans in the five counties I cover decide to stop living. At least one of my days off is a mini-planning day or source day. I am calling police departments, organizations, reading papers (online and print) and I am often writing web material from my living room. I take notes, brainstorm stories and go over older files to review what needs to be followed up. I do not get paid for this time, but it only benefits me the week ahead.
The same philosophy applies when at work. I am not cruising Facebook, listening to YouTube, having a Gchat with friends or going to sit down lunches. Bottom line, if you do not like having extreme time crunches and no time for playing around, find a different career. I know a few of my friends who sit around watching the clock hit 5 p.m. to make their grand exit. In news, there is no leaving early or ducking out to make happy hour. There are often times where I have put in a full day and at 5:58 p.m. a woman decides to drive her car into a church. In truth, that did happen. I should have been headed home to enjoy dinner with friends. Instead, I found myself driving 45 miles away to shoot the scene, talk to witnesses, etc. My friends dined without me. I returned home at 10 p.m., popped in a TV dinner and went to bed. The next morning, I was back at it at 7:30 a.m.
As for holidays, in broadcast news they don’t exist. If you want to be sitting with your family celebrating (insert any event), you likely will not be. Oh, and just because the police department is a skeleton crew and the entire city shutdowns, you are still expected to turn a story and something hard, not some fluffy feature on what shoppers are buying last minute. Your news director and producers aren’t going to pat you on the back and tell you, “It’s okay, everything is closed, we understand.” Leading up to holidays, I am often shooting stories the day before to keep a little extra something in my back pocket.
I have no doubt the the large turnover in my industry is due to the demands and time you spend away from loved ones. I am separated from my family by five states. Did I mention that on birthdays I am put on a conference call to sing “Happy Birthday” to family members to feel included? Reporting will break you down and test your love and passion for journalism daily. The lifestyle is not taught in books or something you can learn in class or at an internship. The lifestyle hits you when you land your first job.
My advice to anyone thinking of getting into this career field is simple: Think of news reporting like getting married. It is a large committed and if you are not ready to give up a large portion of your life prepare for a divorce. You will be out of news faster than you can say, “Reporting Live.” I have said, “I do” and now it is for better or for worse. On the days I score exclusives or do well the good. The for worse…holidays, significant family events, slow news cycles, etc.
Are you ready to marry news?
Jacqueline Ingles is a multi-platform reporter for KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas. She writes, shoots, edits, fronts her story and then provides a more in-depth story version on her station’s web site daily. She founded the blog “In Ingles Please” in early 2010. A native of Chicago, Jacqueline received a master’s in broadcast journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She also graduated Summa Cum Laude from Loyola University-Chicago.