A much needed vent.

Within 10 minutes of waking up you can find me checking messages,  scanning social media, and posting whatever is needed to Facebook- all while anxiously waiting for that first cup of coffee to finish brewing.

That is my routine, 7 days a week - 365 days of the year, and has been my routine now for so long that I cannot remember what it is like to not work as soon as I awake.

There are no vacations from that routine, no sick days - no break. It all occurs, usually, within 5 to 6 hours of my nightly routine, which is pretty much the same except there's no coffee involved and happens 5 -10  minutes of trying to get some sleep.

If anything throws me off of the routine, such as no wifi available, I panic.

I work for a community newspaper. A job I've had now for over a decade.  It has been my routine when I was just a reporter to now being the editor.  I fear it is ingrained in me.

I am not a 9-5 worker - I dread being tied to a desk in an office. I need to be able to work from home to come and go as my job demands. Making plans far ahead of time is difficult for me as the hours I spend awake are at the mercy of messages, emails, filling in for others, and possible news breaking.
This is especially true considering that for a community newspaper to survive in the age of instant communication it needs to be digital almost more than it needs to be printed.

When I started at the paper I was making $20 per article and $5 per picture published with a story.  I raised my children -feed and clothed them - on those wages. Yes, I was always hunting down a story as it was for our survival.  This was especially true during the years of the Great Recession (get real, it was a depression!)

Over the 11 years of working at the paper I fought for better pay and when our social media took off I was granted an extra $50 a week to run our Facebook page. That is when the routine really took hold and the paper's digital presence turned into my baby, something I had to nurture. After about 7 years with the paper a now former owner advocated for me and managed to get me a base a pay. I will always be grateful for that - at the time I was writing about 10 articles a week and helping to find more news to help fill the pages. I was on call 24/7.

When I first started with the paper our office had more people handling all the other things that a media business needs to keep afloat. We had a graphic artist and office person. There was a full-time salesperson and three owners who all wrote and also did sales. We also had other stringer reporters who covered meetings and events.

Slowly over those 11 years, we've downsized the number of people working together to get the news out and now to keep things going we all must wear multiple hats at any given time. In total there were about 7 us who wrote articles, now there is about half that number..including a teen reporter who writes a column about other teens.

Currently, we have just two regular employees at the paper. Myself as editor and an office person. The rest of the team are stringers (freelance)-like me when I started, they are paid by the piece but they do get more than I once did - not a heck of a lot more but we'll keep fighting to change that one day. It is a goal of mine and has been for years. People do not realize the work that goes into covering a story - the phone calls, the research, the sitting in on very long meetings and then trying to find the words to create the article and keep the reader interested.

As for advertising, we once had a designated employee to help fill that need. At one time they received a nice base pay plus commission. But, recently, that too has changed.

This job has given me headaches, stomachaches, and joy. As much as I grumble about it all there is still a huge part of me that knows we're providing a service to our community. I know there are mothers and grandmothers out there clipping and saving articles of the children in their family. I know that there are victims of crime who appreciate knowing their plight wasn't in vain and someone told their story.  Knowing all of that does make it worthwhile.

Lately on social media and out of the mouths of some politicians the media has taken many hits in attempts to discredit us. They will say they are just talking about the major outlets, but those negative comments trickle down and cause harm to even the smaller news outlets. Every time I hear those comments, I cringe. Then, of course, advertising dollars are not what they used to be - businesses and organizations are looking to social media as a free form of promotion. I ask myself is it worth all the headaches, stomachaches, and frustrations to keep doing this job. The last 5 years have been an uphill battle in staying relevant in the age of instant communication- not to mention that my holidays are spent working, weekends are spent working - day after day after day. Even time away is spent finding time to work.

My children grew up going with me throughout the county covering stories. My job was our family time. My youngest son enjoyed it, my eldest dreaded some of things I made him sit through. One positive about it all was I was able to be there for my children whenever they needed me. There are not too many single moms who can say that, and for that reason, I was blessed.

The day I became aware I was to be the editor was not one I look back on with pride. It came to be only because one of my dearest friends was battling cancer. I was terrified for multiple reasons.

When I was a child I never dreamed about becoming a news person. I wanted to be either an anthropologist or a social worker working in the inner city. Somehow, here I am. It would be rather difficult to switch careers at my age and in my community, especially after stepping on more than a few toes with some past articles. A decade plus of writing has ensured that. I know that.

I've been called just about every name in the book. Sometimes I wonder if I was a man if I would receive the same treatment for being independent, direct, and tough skinned. For the most part, I let those insults roll off my back, but I am still human.

Then there are those who do not understand that my position as editor requires me to call the shots on what gets in the paper and what doesn't. Every week it is my neck on the line.  Every week I agonize over those decisions that are mine to be made as I keep our budget always in mind. Because of this I have one rule for our writers, throw story ideas at me before you write them. I don't want someone working without the guarantee of getting paid.

I guess you can tell that right now I am dealing with some frustrations. If you can't tell, know that I am. Recently our graphic artist/office manager took a position elsewhere  -something I completely understood - she was looking at a substantial increase in pay, plus benefits. I congratulated her on the new position that fell in line with her move to a new area.  Who would blame her? The thing is she was the OCD organizer of our office where I was the fly by the seats of your pants person - we balanced.  So now we have the task of filling her position. Currently, I have a very brave friend who is a teacher helping me during her summer break in organizing the office. She's doing a magnificent job. She's patient. In a few weeks I will need to find a permanent replacement.

All of this came after a  much-anticipated trip to see my sons in Memphis- a trip that was spent mostly in the dark and without air conditioning as a vicious storm rolled through knocking out electricity to most of the city. It took a week before the power was restored where my boys live. Memphis is hot in May and June - Memphis is very humid...my Rheumatoid Arthritis flared and I came home to a chaotic mess, sore and swollen without being able to take a breath/break for the next 6 plus weeks.

That trip was needed as earlier this year, I almost lost my best friend. It is a rather long story but suffices to say he is ok now. On the road to him getting better he had planned to move here to Wisconsin with me. He even shipped boxes of his belongings. One week prior to the move, his elderly mother decided to move back in - and now, he must stay there-2000 miles away. That was a two-month long roller coaster ride of emotions.

My dogs are the only ones who have seen my tears.

This rock is dealing with quite a bit. I am not looking for sympathy, so please do not think I am. I just know I need to get this all out. Keeping it in is not healthy and my dogs are not the best listeners.

I have to let it all out so that I can think - move forward - and find the strength that I know is in me to see these issues through. I know that I can see these challenges through. On the road of healing, tests will meet us. This year is a test, I can feel it. Hopefully I pass and hopefully, the reward will be grand.

I debated about writing this all out. I actually started it last week. I decided that it is okay to share this part of me and my life. I always hated growing up in a house where we pretended everything was peachy keen while behind the door was turmoil. I never understood the charade. I also want to leave behind me, for my children and theirs', the story of me. My boys grew up not knowing their grandparents, if that is our future where I may not be around to see my future grandchildren grow, at least they will know my words,  my life, and my emotions. They will know it is okay to be human, flaws and all. Don't let anyone tell you to pretend you are always strong. You're human. We grow from the plights we survive. A while back I addressed feeling sorry for yourself - http://chewedupandspatout.blogspot.com/2009/06/feeling-sorry-for-yourself.html

And yes, it is okay  - just don't live there...get it out and move on.........


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