[A question/answer session from an anonymous journalism student from Sweden for Occupy. We both agreed it would be good to share this for all the young journalists and budding occupy media teams. So, here you go. I was honored to be asked to participate.]
Why did you decide to pursue a career in Journalism?
I wrote for a school newspaper in Jr. High and was curious about journalism then and after several creative writing courses in High School -- but I didn't actively pursue it until I was well into my 30's -- mostly because it flushed well with my photography. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but many of the photographs I took at the time were art photos and descriptions came with them as a matter of course.
My actual career background is in the administrative field [much of that was correspondence and research]. The people I worked for liked the manner and style of my writing and I was highly praised for my ability as a researcher. After my last administrative job was phased out, I actively pursued photojournalism as a means of sharing information. Being a politically active book nerd, my skills simply married well with journalism. I took the leap with my first blog and received a lot of good feedback. Later, I started a music project which garnered some international attention for my writing and since then, I managed to cross the music writing over into activism. Two things I am very passionate about. This started me down a path of deeper research and intelligence gathering -- and the study of journalism in history.
In many ways, journalism pursued me. I'm also a Gemini - ruled by Mercury - the sign of communication and information. Though, many don't put stock in those things, I can attest to that being a strong personality trait.
Are you glad that you did? Do you have any regrets?
This is an interesting question seeing as I feel like I had no choice but to write. Like an artist creates, a writer writes. I'm glad my work helps others and in this day and age of corporate news -- it feels like my duty to continue. I'm honored to witness history as it unfolds and try my best to report factually and objectively -- which was near impossible to do in political writing. The deeper I researched, the more I learned and it became a personal awakening process. For that, I am also glad and couldn't regret a thing. It's been as much a spiritual journey as a professional one. Seeking to uncover the truth, by it's very nature, is a spiritual undertaking.
It's impossible to regret growth as a human being -- it is experience that makes the writer, after all. Though there are few posts by me on TRC, I like sharing others work. I'm working on a book, building a radio station as well as news videos, which doesn't lend itself well to news writing at the moment. There are a lot of great reporters and writers out there and I like to share the ones that impress me.
What successes have you realized as a result of your career choice?
Mostly accolades and the honor of seeing my work alongside some of my personal heroes in the field. Also using my work to help others less fortunate or that do not have a voice. Success is a personal reflection because it is defined differently by an individual rather than what society deems successful. For me personally, I have printed letters and emails framed from other writers and artists I admire -- and have met one of them last year who was quite a mentor for me. So I guess I feel my successes are in my growth and the personal connections with like minded people.
This is also a mixed blessing as some writers may not be socially in tune or egotistical which is a turn off. But that's life and all part and parcel of the experience. That doesn't make a person's work any less valuable a contribution. I mean, Hunter Thompson may have been considered an asshole by many -- but his writing put Rolling Stone on the map, in my opinion.
What have been your greatest challenges (or what are your greatest challenges now)
Money. I think most writers would say the same. The corporate media machine and technology has lulled a lot of people into a false sense of what journalism is or should be. It does get a bad rap. I feel that is changing however, so honestly, it's an exciting time to be involved in media as much as it is precarious. There are many who probably couldn't hack it and aside from money, the greatest challenge for me was cutting through my own cognitive dissonance in order to report without mainstream bias. This is much harder than it sounds simply because the mainstream has done it's job well. Being a little 'gonzo' helps.
Hunter Thompson remains one of my favorite writers and he said that it is near impossible for regular people to get good information during wartime. This makes the job of a journalist much harder as well. Meeting and overcoming challenges to deliver honest reporting is pretty much how any journalist worth their salt will keep their integrity and the loyalty of their readers [or viewers]. Even when the political climate makes them fickle...and fickle is being kind. It's a tough audience out there right now.
I've always admired Keith Olbermann's ability to maintain loyal listeners. I'm not sure European readers will know who he is -- but he was on a cable station called Current which is owned in part by Al Gore. He was fired abruptly two weeks ago and was one of the only remaining voices on [pseudo] mainstream that supported and reported on Occupy. I hope he gives Current a Gonzo bitch-slap so hard that Al's wife Tipper will feel it.
Don't get me started on Tipper.
Are there any "unknown" pieces or aspects of such a career that might be helpful for an outsider to consider?
Be prepared to handle the truth when you find it -- and be prepared to tell it to others thoughtfully not cautiously. The duty of any journalist is to report what IS -- to the best of their ability with the information available. 'Available' does not mean you don't have to research. Dig until you are satisfied in your own mind and heart that you have discovered something of value to your readers. It is ultimately about them.
Lastly, if you want to improve a thing [your writing, the political landscape, the press] be critical of it. In order for the art of journalism to survive corporate control -- it needs more critics not suck ups. This means you need to have a thick skin and an iron constitution. Journalism is not for the weak of heart. The old saying that the pen is mightier than the sword is true -- words are very powerful things -- wield them with respect for the truth and you will never injure yourself.
Others may get hurt, however -- but if a small few are hurting the 99%, the environment or our democracy -- being critical of them is just helping karma along. It is way past due for a nudge.
Any personal advice or last comments?
Keep a copy of the First Amendment where you write. I recommend watching the movie "Good Night and Good Luck" at least twice to understand why one of the highest awards for American journalism has Edward R. Murrow's name on it. If we were all half as good as he was -- we could mop the floor with MSM here. That time is coming because this economy is seeing major publications laying people off. Citizen press and underground media need to get their foundations established now - there is a window and I'm unsure how long it will be open. Connect with like-minded thinkers, photographers, videographers and not worry about trying to "make it" in a dying corporate media culture. Leave that old cold war corpse to rot...it's time to get on with the business of telling people the truth.
US media is about as useful as a stars and stripes band aid on compound fracture.