Returning to my roots by being a practicing journalist once more

By Robert Washburn

Starting July 3, I am returning to the newsroom to practice my craft.  Northumberland Today is giving me a chance to work for the next 10 days. It is voluntary, as I hope to stretch my reporting muscles to ensure I really do understand all those things I teach during the rest of the year.

Trust and credibility are not only traits of journalism. These are also key elements of a good teacher. I stand in front of students who want to know I understand what they go through each day in the QNetNews integrated newsroom. This is my chance to live their reality every day.

Sure, I do a column every two weeks. And, I run several blogs, including this one. And, I write about journalism theory and deliver conference papers. But, nothing beats going into a newsroom, pitching a story, picking up a phone, making calls, taking notes, doing research, chasing leads and following assignments from my editor.

Besides, I love journalism. It is in my DNA. I love writing. I love the adrenalin rush. I love lighting the fire in my belly once more and go after a good story. Yup, it never grows old.

Last year, I did a week in the newsroom and had a great time. It is good to be able to return.

It never ceases to amaze me how much the news landscape changes each year. Interviews are harder to land. Journalists are not as respected as once was the case. No one trusts a journalist. Nobody wants to talk. And, when they do, they don’t want to give you their name or only the first name. When you start asking questions, the response is simply: Why are you not just printing the press release? Why do you want to print something negative? It is just a question, I say. It is enough to make one shake their head.

There is so much spin out there. I swear there is not enough Gravol in the world to stop the nausea.

But, this is why it is good to go back. It is important to see these changes. There is no point in being nostalgic. Nobody care what it used to be. What matters is now.

It is not just the journalism that has changed. I have changed.

If I was a pitcher, you could say I was a starter back in the day. I had plenty of energy. I delivered hard, fast and clean. There was not much selection: hardball every time. Now, I have a lot less energy. The complexity of stories slows me down because I understand things are grey, not the black and white lenses of youth. It makes stories far more fascinating.

And, it is much more enjoyable. While I may leave the speed and energy behind, I am far more diverse in approach. I have all kinds of breaking stuff. Questions that dance in the air like a knuckleball. Sinkers that come across flat, then drop off at the last minute, leaving the source scrambling for an answer. A change-up every now and then to break the rhythm. Yes, it is much more fun.

So, here I go. Fresh batteries for the recorder. Charge the camera. Lots of new pens and a clean notepad.

And I ask my wife to leave a light in the window so I can find my way home.