At first, stepping through the side entrance located in a busy mall located in the Minneapolis Skyway, life appears to come to a screeching halt. In the middle of a Saturday morning, as a multitude of conferences, exhibitions and other events were taking place across the city, and the line of people stretched to near the door, there was still an element of life pausing.
It happened at a Starbucks in the City Center, during a pause in my sojourn to a journalism conference at a downtown hotel. I had seen the pausing element there before a few months earlier, on a weekday morning. It may have been before 9 on a Tuesday, but you wouldn’t have noticed that from many of those there.
It is this pausing element, in this Starbucks in the midst of a busy downtown, that has allowed this place to stand out in my mind, and is a symbolic reminder of one aspect of self-care – broadly not discussed very much in this industry – that needs to be practiced.
In journalism circa 2018, the daily news cycle takes the form of 4-5 stories breaking at the same time. News of layoffs are happening at just about the same time as a deadline prepares to breathe down one’s neck. For many journalists, be they early in their careers or have been working in the industry for decades, there have been many days where journalism circa 2018 can appear a bit much.
Yet, the focus remains on the work at hand. We bury ourselves in work, be it the freelancer whose work ethic is dependent on whether its feast or famine, the staff reporter competing against other outlets to break the very story that their community will be talking about the next day, or the editors ensuring every t is crossed and every i is dotted, making things work with all the tasks building up.
We bury ourselves in work and go about it, day in and day out. We bury ourselves in this work and don’t come up to the surface to breathe, for if we do, we fear that someone else will get that story, or that content demand may not be met, and that will come at a cost – the job.
The work may be getting done, but the way in which we do the work is doing more harm than good. We wonder what the point of all it is – if journalism was the right thing we were supposed to do for the rest of our lives.
The way we work in what is one of the most important professions in the world is harming not only ourselves, but also our audience, and it’s got to change.
One thing that can be done is simple – get a cup of coffee and sit down with a colleague, be it in your own organization or at another organization. Find out what they’re thinking, how they approach the changing landscape and their ideas on what it means to tell a story in the constant sea of noise.
Sitting down to have these conversations, be it at the Starbucks in the City Center, a coffee shop near the newsroom, or anywhere, is worth doing. A second pair of eyes to help consider what journalism means can change your outlook, reinvigorate your craft with new ideas, and ultimately, serve your audience better than you were before. It’s not only cathartic, but a necessity.
In the end, it is better for your audience, and yourself, to pause, to reflect, and to consider what it means to be a journalist in this digital age – and your industry colleagues can help you do that.
So take a few minutes out of your day to sit down with someone, cup of coffee in hand, and have a conversation. For those minutes, the news can wait.
Editor’s note: This piece was amended at 6:22pm CT for clarity.
Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.
The views expressed unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.