Press Talk: Tough but rewarding, this job

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



Award ad on Page A5 of Saturday's newspaper.

It ain’t easy calling a newsroom your home.

There’s no fat paycheck waiting for you every week, no cushy pension on the other end of the tunnel.

Nope. This is real life. Pound for pound, a journalist is likely the smartest person you’ll meet with the least amount of financial award.

OK, OK, one could argue, “Just how smart can a journalist be? If he’s all that smart, why is he still working at a newspaper?”

Well, some have left the fold. You’ll see former journalists, for example, living a much sweeter life in the higher-paying governmental sector or health field.

Most turn into public relations types. Reporters with experience in the newsroom trenches are coveted in many other jobs.

Still, most journalists stay in the field. Many of them, I suspect, simply enjoy the job. No, they don’t enjoy the low pay and grind that comes with it. But the job is special.

Journalists are surrounded by bright people (almost everyone in a newsroom has at least a bachelor’s degree.) We get to be creative every day. And in the end maybe — just maybe — what we do might make a difference.

Like other jobs, we accept the downsides of it all. I mean, sitting through an entire county commission meeting — well — you often hope it’s your turn on “Words With Friends.”

Then there’s the, ah feedback. Hey, we like the stuff. Good or bad. But like anything in life, there are a few folks who go overboard. Honestly, I find those folks amusing. Not everyone agrees with me on this. But it is a crazy world we live in.

Still, when you crunch the good and the bad into the equation, most folks stick around because there’s no better job.

o o o

When Andrea Damewood and Zachary Kaufman come to work each day, they’re never certain what to expect.

Andrea — who covers the city government — could be looking at another mundane council meeting. Or maybe the police chief will resign.

Zachary — one of our photographers — could have a lineup of portraits to shoot. Or he could end up with smoke in his eyes covering a burning downtown building.

In the end, no matter what they’re doing, they simply want to do the best they can with the story presented to them.

o o o

What’s the result of all of this hard work? First and foremost, it’s creating a reading experience for our community.

But are there any other benefits? Yes. If we do our job right, we are sometimes recognized with awards.

We don’t do what we do to win awards. But if we do our job right, the awards will come.

And Andrea and Zachary are two of the many journalists here who recently won awards.

A few weeks ago, the Society of Professional Journalists — sponsors of one of the few contests we enter — announced winners in the five-state region The Columbian is part of. Five states!

How’d we do? Well we won more first-place awards than any newspaper our size. And if that wasn’t enough, we won more total awards than any newspaper our size.

Columbian journalists are good! And we feel it pays off for our readers and advertisers.

Journalism. It ain’t easy. But we love it.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, or