The difference between darkness and light.
You are not alone. In fact, you’ve got way too much company.
Of all the people I’ve met during my ten-year career in television and radio, I can’t think of one former colleague who didn’t have a latent desire to “get out of broadcasting” and “get a normal job with normal hours.”
I knew the transition wouldn’t be that simple. What I didn’t know was how far my sense of “normal” had gone awry.
Reactions from some of my former colleagues after joining Engage PR were a mixed bag. Some were quite warm and sincere. Others said “congrats” through strained, jealous smiles. More than a few times I heard the perplexing idiom about “jumping over to the dark side."
“No, you’ve got it backwards” I said to the last pair of media friends who implied I'd sold out. “I switched over to the bright side. You’re the ones who are living in the dark.”
My friends' laughter was bright but faded quickly as the cold reality of the newsroom loomed.
My best friends in broadcasting are people who chose the career for the same reason I did, but almost none of them will admit it. I’m the only reporter I know who will tell you “vanity” was my number one reason for wanting to become a reporter. I simply wanted to be on TV.
In college, I was also taught about how virtuous news organizations and journalists were, and I like the idea of serving the public, and I took that to heart and poured everything I had into doing the job correctly.
After working in a couple different cities, it started to dawn on me that TV stations serve advertisers, not the public, because selling airtime keeps the lights on. Reporters serve the TV stations by growing larger audiences for those advertisers, by any means necessary.
What a small room of people think a local audience wants to watch on TV requires reporters to do things like ask a grieving mother “how does it feel” after her three-year-old daughter was killed, or perform other immoral, heartless acts most people who give those orders have never carried out themselves, and directives that have turned the general public against journalists - hurling random insults as they drive by. What makes matters worse, is you understand why they don't like you or your news station.
Now, the passion you had for being a reporter and your belief in the virtues of your career begin to fade. Sadness and shame take their place.
When you get back to the newsroom and hear “great job on getting the mom on camera,” you start to feel okay again, even as you’re handed your next assignment – covering the recent light rain shower and talking about how wet it is.
I grew accustomed to the peculiar news assignments and stopped fighting for other (what I thought were) more meaningful stories, even though what airs on the evening news only brings it closer to the day that utility bill goes unpaid, and the power goes out for good.
Reporters and public relations professionals are in the same line of work. We just have different clients with different stories to tell - all with their own best interests at heart.
That’s one of many things I like about PR. There’s no confusion about who I’m working for, and my days seem a little brighter now. I’m a little wiser, and I hope all of my old friends in broadcasting find their way out of that bizarre, dark vortex, and find a lighter path that leaves their integrity intact.