Well, now I’ve done it - gone and robbed myself of any excuse ever to complain about my job again. In short, I’ve turned down a golden opportunity to leave the world of electronic newsgathering. Protocol prevents me from sharing the details, but let’s just say it was a rare chance to stay in television but out of the newsroom. Not too long ago I would have gladly gargled broken glass and Texas Pete to stage such an escape, but when it came time to ditch my fancy-cam and run, I just couldn’t do it. ‘Why’, you ask? Well, it’s kind of embarrassing, but you see...I’m a newsman.
That’s right, a newsman. Though I began my career producing used car lots and fat lady dress shop commercials, things didn’t really kick into high gear until I picked up a news camera. Suddenly, a blur of Easter egg hunts and drive-by shootings raced through my lens, holding my attention the way thrift store ads never really did. Of course, that newscast magnetism weakened over the next decade and a half. Crank out years and years of the same news cycle and you too will reach maximum burnout. It’s one of the reason so many of my gifted colleagues have sought ground higher than that of your average news set.
Despite all those defections, I’ve stuck with it - though at times I’ve displayed frighteningly embittered tendencies. I’m not particularly proud of it, but at the time raging at the machine felt quite justified. Still does, sometimes. Which is why it makes no sense that I pass up a chance to rid myself of the news unit shackles. That is, until my gut speaks up. Call it conscience, heart or Jiminy Cricket, we all have it - that insistent, interior voice that speaks with painful frankness. I’ve ignored mine a few times over the years and have suffered for my obstinacy. One particular example springs to mind...
At age 27, I was a one-man-band reporter/photog at my second station. Always more talented behind the camera than in front of it, I tortured the region nonetheless with nightly vignettes featuring my furry mug. It was great. I worked out of a bureau, far from the politics of the newsroom and relished the freedom and the friends I’d made at crime scenes and train wrecks. Problem was though, I felt abused. No matter how many breathless reports I filed, my lack of on-air polish destined me to a career of endless deadlines and damn few perks. Back then, I still held onto a dream of making it on-air - even though I was never very good at it. Meanwhile a bevy of overgroomed beauties came and went - all reaping the rewards of the star-making machine that a scruffy stutterer like myself would never enjoy. Slowly I realized I’d always be a foot-soldier in the War on News.
Which is why, I entertained the idea of a certain dark overlord. I was pounding out a script in my dumpy little bureau when the call came. A smarmy voice I’d come to loathe pitched an enticing scenario. ‘Wouldn’t I like to come to the promotions department and produce on-air ads for the station?’ The offer entailed a bit more money, but besides that - it presented a chance to escape what was beginning to feel like a dead-end career. My wife was expecting our first child at the time and the opportunity felt like the Right Thing To Do.
Without giving it too much thought, I said ‘Yes’ and hung up the phone. But I couldn’t let go of the receiver. Instead I could only stare at it as the annoying beep echoed through my small office. Over that particular din however, another sound ricocheted through my brain. “You‘ll regret this”, my small voice said, “You‘ll regret this…” And I did. After a couple of years of cranking out tripe for a jack-hole of a boss, I ran away screaming to a Piedmont newsroom. My foray down the hall taught me a lot, but it interrupted the trajectory of my career. It’s taken me years to make up for it. I swore back then I’d never again ignore that voice, for it most always knows better than I.
Now that I’ve been presented with another seemingly easy escape, that same voice is screaming at me. I’d be a fool not to listen, even if it does seem intent on keeping me mired in the highly stressful world of TV news. Someday the right offer will come along and I’ll happily fork over my keys to Unit 4 and the freedom it affords me. This however, ain’t it. Or so I’m told. Oh - as for that ‘never complaining about my job again’ shtick? Don’t hold me too it. The next time a deadline or a live truck acts up, I reserve the right to go nuclear, for despite my celebrated lack of sheepskin, I hold a Masters Degree in Bitch and Moan.