A friend from school told me this story last fall. It is the perfect summary of why I have given up on the profession
I've studied for most of my life.
Mike was excited about his summer internship at a major daily newspaper. The editors were nice, he got to write interesting stories and looked forward to coming to work every day.
One day, an editor came to his desk. This was nothing unusual; his editors usually dropped by to ask how his articles were going or to assign something. He looked up, and the editor handed him a photocopy.
There was this one particularly infamous double murder in the early '90s. There is no way I could accurately put it into words.
One of the victims was buried near the city where Mike worked. His editor handed him a short news article from another paper about the young woman.
It was her birthday.
"We need you to go to the cemetery and wait for her family to show up," he said.
"Interview whoever shows up and write a story about it. A colour piece. Lots of emotion. Four-to-six hundred words."
The colour drained from Mike's face. His editor, unflinching, went back to his desk.
Mike didn't know what to think. He was just starting out in this business, yes, and the young blood usually had to push through unglamourous work in order to climb the ladder, but could he do this?
Could he invade a grieving family's privacy even to help memorialize their loved one?
He knew people would see the story in the next day's paper and wonder what would ever have possessed some insensitive git to stake out a murder victim's grave and wait for her family. And he didn't want to be that git.
He looked around at the other reporters. They were the ones who asked hard questions of politicians, who exposed corruption scandals and who went home every night feeling that they'd helped to inform the public.
And most of them had memories of their beat reporting days that they wanted to forget. Showing up uninvited at grieving families' homes. Asking pointed political questions of men and women who had just seen their spouse carried off an army jet in a casket.
Waiting at graves with a notepad and a tape recorder.
But those moments had helped them get there. They owed their careers to moments like those. They were career-buliding moments.
Mike wanted neither to be that guy nor to become so callous that he could allow himself to become that guy without caring.
He got up and headed towards his editor.
He put the photocopy on the desk, left the newsroom and never came back.
Many people have asked why I plan to collect my degree
and never do this again.