The Anytime, Anywhere Journalist

When you choose to become a journalist, you are choosing to have irregular hours and days and to be available always.

Newspaper journalism is an anytime, anywhere sort of career. As a result, you have to be ready at the drop of a hat to work. This isn’t a 9-to-5, go home and leave the office behind kind of gig.

Editors don’t have a sense of time. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten 11 p.m. calls for a last minute clarification or request for additional information for a story I’ve written that day. And I can’t tell you the number of times I have cursed hearing the phone ring, knowing that it meant that my quiet night or my party night or whatever would be temporarily disrupted.

For that matter though, there are days off where I’ve been asked to make phone calls for a breaking news story. My husband still remembers one time in particular when I ditched him at the mall to find a quiet spot and make a dozen phone calls. For that reason, whenever we vacation, my phone stays off nearly the entire time. That’s the only way I can be sure that I won’t work.

As irritating as it can be though, if you really love what you do and are really dedicated, this is a sacrifice you’ll make for the good of the news. Sometimes you are the only one someone will talk to or the only one with the right contacts. And that itself is a good thing, not a bad one.

I can’t say that you get to used to it, but it sure is something you learn to accept. In order to cope, you have to set limits both for yourself and with your editors. Here are a few tips:

– Turn off the cell phone when you are at an important family event or on vacation. That will give you a bit of rest.
– Be careful who you give your cellphone number to and never give your home phone number. Some contacts will call at the drop of a hat for nothing.
– Vary your stories from fluffy features to hard news so that you aren’t focusing on one subject. This will help you avoid becoming ‘burned out’.
– Take your lunch break. It might be tempting to eat at your desk or in the car, but this is a necessary break for you and your body.
– When you are done for the day, go home or wherever else you want to go. Too many journalists get caught up in a vicious cycle of staying well after their completion time and lose their personal lives.

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