parting ways with news

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On Friday, I turned in my badge and walked for the last time out of the news station I’ve been working at for nearly two years. I then made my way to my car and started driving when I noticed the station’s sign in the rearview mirror and got out to take one last picture. It was a cloudless, sunny day as I drove past the building, made two left turns, then a right and passed a line of downtown adobe homes with their white-blossom trees.

As I got closer to the southbound freeway entrance, I ended up behind one of the station’s live trucks. I have no idea where the driver was headed; I missed the conversation as I gathered the items from my desk, got an extra slice of “Best Wishes” cake to take home and told my boss and coworkers goodbye. It no longer mattered if I knew where that truck was going, though, at least job-wise. If it had been a breaking news situation and I was on the clock, I would have wanted to know where it was going and who was driving so I could anticipate photos coming to my email. I would have added them to the story or created a gallery. If it wasn’t a breaking news situation (which it wasn’t), I would have been anticipating a web story from the reporter within a couple hours. But soon after the truck and I entered the freeway, we would part ways. The station would keep on going, and I’d start moving for the first time since high school away from working in journalism.

It was a strange feeling leaving that day. I’d been anticipating it for a while and knew months ago the news business was no longer for me. While I know there will be some aspects I will miss, and I’ll always be thankful for my experiences and all the people I met, I need to do something that doesn’t leave me wishing more for the human race every day in a way that is almost painful sometimes. I went into journalism because I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted to tell the good stories. I learned early on that I most enjoyed writing feature stories and designing newspaper pages, but since moving to TV and becoming a web producer I have written, edited and published more sad, scary and tragic stories than I can count and my heart was beginning to crack.

On the way home on my last day, I listened to the song “Time” by the Mowgli’s which I heard for the first time earlier this week. It seemed to fit all the things I’ve been feeling the last months.

“I can’t stand working all day
work is wearing out my soul
I think I’ll go out tonight
and I will call in sick tomorrow
I get so down about this world sometimes
I cannot understand people, no not at all
But, I hope to see a change in man
I hope to see us love one another
And I know we can”

This song stood out to me immediately the first time I heard it because it’s positive and negative which is how I’ve been feeling for a while now. I felt like I haven’t been the best “me.” I can’t blame this on the things I read and covered in news, and I can’t blame it on my job. There are too many reasons that make people who they are and there are things I struggle with that have nothing to do with either of those things. I do know, though, that working in hard news versus the features section in a city with higher crime than where I used to live changed my perspective about countless things. It forced me to see suffering in ways I’d ignored before. In order to remain positive, I can’t take in as many terrible stories anymore because I don’t know what to do with them. I tend to harbor and stew over them in a way that is probably unhealthy.

Last weekend, I went to a Garth Brooks concert with a friend in Denver which was extraordinary. We had so much fun seeing and singing with this fabulous country legend that made songs like “The Thunder Rolls,” “The Dance,” and “Standing Outside the Fire” famous. Before he sang one of his newer songs, “People Loving People,” he told the audience that he often watches the news and has to turn it off because it makes him so mad. Then he sang that song which is all about making the world a better place in the most basic of ways – people loving people.

As I leave the news industry, I want to remember that people are good. I want to see us love one another and I know we can. Just last week my station covered a local teacher who made such a wonderful difference in her students’ lives that she was featured on Ellen. The whole thing was so touching I had to fight back the tears. People really are good.

I worked in news professionally for eight years, but if I counted all the years my name appeared in magazines, newspapers and websites, it would add up to about 14. I started writing for a local teen section of a newspaper in high school and wrote for my school’s paper my senior year. Then college began and I quickly joined the features staff and finished as features editor in 2007. From there I wrote for a magazine and newspapers for six years before transitioning into digital content management for a news station. I’m young, but news has been a big part of my life for half my life and there were many, many good stories. Here are a few examples:

• I one got to talk to two women who became friends after one agreed to be the other’s surrogate. It was this amazing story of families coming together to bless one another’s lives for no other reason than compassion.

• I met a woman whose house had burned down and was so inspired by how the community came together to help her family out. They donated clothes, toys and food for months so she and her family didn’t have to feel like they were left with nothing.

• A guide dog once led me around town with his owner so I could see and learn about how he was trained to keep her safe. Seeing teamwork between animals and humans is amazing.

• I sat in a local diner for more than an hour one day and talked with the manager who came from Afghanistan as a college student and worked his way up in the restaurant until he eventually bought it. It had survived for more than 25 years at that time and had become a really special place for some people. He would call the regulars when he knew they were sick and didn’t show up for a few days. He provided a free Thanksgiving dinner for the community every year. He reminded himself that everything in life is temporary so he always tried to remain thankful.

• I met a woman who started the first gay/straight alliance at the college I went to. Her story was not only incredible, but she helped so many students, faculty and families who didn’t have a place to turn to talk about these issues before.

• The woman who was in charge a 24-hour family crisis center told me about how sometimes she didn’t know how she’d get all the bills paid, but that miracles always seemed to happen to keep them afloat. At that time, the center been around for 25 years and every April, they decorated the yards of donors’ homes and businesses with pink flamingoes to remind the community to help end child abuse. Who doesn’t love pink flamingoes?

• Rape victims and their advocates spoke to me when I wanted to do a series on services available to them and the community. I consider everyone who is willing to speak out about this topic – especially the victims – brave beyond measure.

• A nonprofit director told me about how the organization teamed up with a nursery to offer low-income families year-round gardens to help them become a little more self-sufficient. The stories I was told from the families who benefitted were inspiring. Parents were teaching 2-year-olds how to garden and they were so happy with their work.

• I heard the long distance love story of a woman from Norway who fell in love with an American and they made it work and eventually were able to get married and live in the same place. Stories like this later helped me when I was in a long-distance relationship. It really can work, I promise!

• There were the fun and unusual stories. I got to visit graveyards, cabins, fraternities and an old mental health facility that were all known for their alleged hauntings. I got to see how local places made chocolate and ice cream (and the samples weren’t too shabby either). I got to hear the story of how a local coffee shop began and stayed around for decades using the best beans and machines.

The news business treated me well. We are a culture of people who love to hear stories, and for a while, I got to be one of the storytellers. I really learned so much in unexpected ways from unexpected sources. I learned that incredible things happen to ordinary people. I learned that we’re all in this – the good and the bad – together, and we’re all affected by others’ stories.

I’m not going to quit writing. I plan to have my name published again someday. Until then, I’ll contribute to the world in a different way and I’ll be looking for the good.

“When life gets hard
you’ve got to remember who you are
And forget about what people think
just be who you want to be
Don’t you want to see how good life can be?
Let’s make a harmony and life will sing”

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