Confronting The Harsh Realities of Journalism

A difficult truth I have always tried to tell myself not to think about, but that I now have no choice but to examine: Journalists are obnoxiously underpaid. In fact, one of my colleagues, who is a prominent editor, told me he absoluetly never buys lattes because if he did, it would cut into his mortgage, food, electricity bills, etc.

Journalism3-246x300He stressed to me, if you want to move forward in this industry, you really have to love it and have a passion for it because the money just isn’t there.

This conversation made me question my career path.  Hearing someone with whom I admire and could imagine myself becoming one day open up about some of his financial difficulties was really tough.

Plus, as a person who grew up living a comfortable upper-middle class lifestyle and was living a reasonably comfortable college lifestyle, the thought of not being able to enjoy some of the finer things in life was unsettling.

But after examining how I really feel, espresso with steamed milk and other such luxuries provide me with instant gratification, not longterm satisfaction. However, learning knew perspectives and ideas while developing my skills as a writer and reporter is a very rewarding process.  Plus, I don’t think seeing articles I’ve written appear in print all across town will ever get old.DailyPlanet

Maybe I’ll rethink my decision in the future, but for now, I’m planning on moving full speed ahead. So basically, my advice to all aspiring journalists is the same that my colleague gave me: If you truly love it, go for it. If not, enjoy the splendors of a more lucrative industry. 

By Corey Buchanan



About cbuch232

Just trying to make my way from the hazy mist to the light. I am a Journalism major and Political Science minor at University of Oregon. I am passionate about learning new things, meeting new people and most of all, journalism! My specialties are writing and editing but I also have experience with photography and videography.
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10 Responses to Confronting The Harsh Realities of Journalism

  1. kaitlynchock says:

    Corey, I’m glad you found something that you’re passionate enough about to overlook the money factor. Also, I’m impressed that your colleague was comfortable enough with you to be able to talk about finances like that. You clearly did a great job building relationships during the short time you’ve been at your internship. That being said, I have to agree that the median pay for journalist is astonishingly low. I appreciated your point that fancy coffee brings you instant gratification, not longterm satisfaction and I’m inspired by your drive. You’re going to go really far and I’m excited for you.

  2. Corey, truer words have never been spoken. All my life, I’ve known I wanted to write. Just about as long, I’ve known I would be underpaid and under appreciated for my writing. I agree with you that the little things in life (like delicious hot lattes) only bring momentary satisfaction, where as seeing our names in print is the most exciting moment in our whole day or even week. I think it’s important to be realistic about how much money we’ll be making in the future.

    That said, I also think it’s important to indulge yourself occasionally. Buy that concert ticket you can’t really afford! Get a latte because it’s rainy and all you had at home was stale Dunkin’ Donuts coffee! Treat yourself to a nice business outfit or dinner (alone) at a swanky place 😉 Just because we won’t be driving Porches doesn’t mean we’re devoting ourselves to a life of hard times and money struggles. Remember that as a journalist you’ll get to: attend sporting events you can’t afford, try new places you’ve never heard of, meet new people on a daily basis, act as a voice of authority bringing important information to others and generally have a more awesome, fulfilling and interesting life than someone who is stuck behind a desk from 9-5 and cashing huge paychecks they’re too burnt out to use!!

    I admire your resolve, mostly because I feel exactly the same way myself. Good luck to you in the rest of your internship! I know you’ll do great because, as your post demonstrates, you’re passionate about this stuff!

  3. Sometimes uncovering the truth about professions can be totally bittersweet. It’s tough to see someone that you would consider to be successful say that they are financially tight. Entering the real world is scary for that reason. At the same time, it puts everything into perspective for us and it’s better we discover those things now rather than later when we have to pay the bills. It’s awesome that you can harness that fear and say to yourself full speed ahead. For some people that decision isn’t as easy and some people still haven’t found that topic or career they are really passionate about. Sometimes we need that information to make the biggest decisions in our lives. I’m glad you could face that fear and admit that you love what you’re doing and you are committed to it!

  4. Corey, I totally understand this dilemma. I started out with only a journalism major, but fewer jobs and the pay bothered me. I ended up double majoring in advertising because I love it but also, being completely honest, I knew the pay would be better. However, I think people who have a passion for journalism and can look past the hardships are the people who make it big as a journalist. And you’re right, those little instant gratifications don’t compare to having a stack of articles with your name on it! Thank you for the honest post.

  5. davidhamernick says:

    Like everyone else has commented, realizing that little delicacies like coffee are only minor and short-lived boosts in pretty wise of you. I have honestly encountered the exact same notion, even now as a college kid trying to save money where I can; I get bummed out about not having the comfortable level of income to buy coffee and a breakfast sandwich every day (who likes waking up early to make your own food?)

    I can appreciate that you were also honest about the possibility of switching careers later down the road. It’s true that ideals can change and therefore alter what career makes us happy, and that’s a smart thing to realize. As for now (and possibly forever) I’m glad you’re choosing something rewarding in it of itself.

  6. simonemyers says:

    This topic was a great one to bring up at this time, especially with all of us being 5 weeks from graduation. I know that I’ve been thinking about money a lot and how I’m going to make my entry level position fit my preferred lifestyle…and the type of life I’ll have to live until I make it to where I want to be. But you’re right, if this is the path we choose to travel, we have to accept it for what it is and make the best out of it. Having a high paying job doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t happy and genuinely love what you’re doing.

  7. hansonlauraj says:

    Thank you for making this post! No matter what career path you choose, I think it’s essential to examine your reasons behind your chosen profession. My current internship is my fourth unpaid editorial intern position while my brother, a 19 year old with no previous employment, let alone intern experience, is going to be making ~60k/year in his first internship in an engineering field. It’s a little more than disheartening, but I feel better, like you, when I take a step back and consider how much I do love journalism… even though life would probably be a little bit easier if I loved calculus and engineering. 😉
    Your post is a little bit related to my next blog, so I’m looking forward to seeing what you think.

  8. pdxsx says:

    Corey, what you are saying is true. But it is also true that if you are passionate about what you are doing for a career, work hard at it and focus, the money will come. Why do you think I made the point several times last week that so many JOUR folks eventually go on to the PR side? 🙂 Sometimes it’s all about the Benjamins – but only do it if it makes you happy.

  9. jroger10 says:

    Money is not worth a boring job! People who work for money quit, suffer from depression and are often overall unhappy. I think dentists in Seattle have the highest suicide rate in the U.S.
    That’s why people supplement their lives with marriage and babies!
    Find a rich lady and don’t worry so much.
    And heavily support paternity leave.

  10. Corey, that seems like a fairly overwhelming conversation to have but I’m sure it felt nice to hear someone give you an honest answer. I think it is really awesome that you are passionate about your work with or without a hefty paycheck. Being in PR, it definelty helps to know that it is generally a well-paid industry but I would like to think that if faced in a certain circumstance I would stick with it. I think you brought up a really great point about the feeling you get when your work is published and how rewarding that it. I think that’s really awesome you are able to depict what is truly important to you in life. I hope you continue to be passionate throughout your career and you can always remember why you chose to get into the journalism. Best of luck!

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