Why I work in a newsroom

Six years ago, I googled “journalism”.

I was a software architect, working on enterprise systems that optimized global email systems, simplified the lives of hedge fund managers, and made marketing teams at banks more effective. It was interesting work. (Really!) But after nearly a decade in startups and corporate life, I grew tired of the products I was making.

So I started searching for something more socially-conscious to do with my skills. I thought about going back to school to study law or maybe public policy. Then opportunity knocked. I heard about a program to study journalism for a year, so I googled it.

The search results spoke to me. Journalism was about democracy, about informing the public so they could better self-govern. It was like law or policy but from the bottom-up. I could get behind that.

It’s super fun

Becoming a journalist seemed like a positive thing to do with my life way back then, but I had no idea it would be such a good time.

Every day, I get to work with some of the smartest folks I’ve ever met, each a savant for some interesting and important subject. One week I get to learn about science, or the law, the next is business, or politics.

And, bonus, they’re all squeaky wheels – the kinds of people who cause a fuss in all-staff meetings. Challenging your superiors doesn’t always go so well in corporate America. But speaking truth to power is a journalist’s job. In the newsroom, I feel like I’ve found my people.

Plus, every story is a chance to try something new. We rarely work on a project for longer than a couple months. And when we’re done, we update our kit with what we’ve learned. Even at the most agile tech shops, you eventually get stuck with some legacy crap for a year. We get to reboot every week. And as a result, I’ve never seen a software team learn this fast.

Smart, passionate people, widely varying work, and super short deadlines? What else could you ask for in a job?!

The work we do helps people

In my previous life I enjoyed the problem solving, the creativity, the process of making software. Programming is a fun and challenging career and getting to solve puzzles every day is pretty neat. But to what end? Making software to make money for people who have money to make software?

The day’s story could be a safety database or a voting guide or a warning system for floods – and for each, we ask “Who are our users? What are their needs?” We make software with a purpose, for people. The work you do in a newsroom helps people live their lives and participate in society.

It’s very satisfying.

This post was written in support of the Knight-Mozilla Fellowships. If any of this spoke to you, do yourself a favor and apply. It’ll be the best decision you’ll ever make.

For more testimonials, check out Why develop in the newsroom (part 1) and Why develop in the newsroom (part 2).

12 thoughts on “Why I work in a newsroom

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