Sometimes it’s good to just go back to your roots.
Here I was, 20 years later, doing essentially the same job I did back at my first journalism job. I was answering phones and typing in box scores for the sports department for a few Friday nights, much like I had when I was a young adult.
My current job, as managing editor of The Lima News, doesn’t generally resemble those late nights making sure the football game’s score by quarter adds up or finding a team’s leading rusher. It’s generally more big-picture, like what we’ll cover and what we won’t or what strategies might be more effective for our website.
One of the ironies of working life is once you master one skill, the powers that be promote you on to use some other skill you don’t yet have. So you keep working, trying to master that next set of skills.
It was reassuring to me to see I still have it. More than that, it was refreshing.
I’ll admit, sometimes what I do now doesn’t feel like journalism. I spend a lot of time on the phone with unhappy readers, irritated by some perceived sleight that usually turns out to be an oversight. A chunk of my time is spent making sure our reporters don’t spend too much of theirs on any one thing, since all middle managers are told to watch overtime costs.
It’s easy to forget why you got into your line of work in the first place.
For me, it’s the ability to present information. It’s not an ego thing about seeing my byline in the newspaper. It’s knowing I’ve done something that affected lives.
For the decade I worked in sports, I knew I was promoting a healthy culture while also recognizing the good work of teens. When I moved to news side in the early 2000s, it was more about highlighting the good and exposing the evil in our region.
It was nice to go back to some of that. I’m not going to say typing a few football players’ names correctly while our phone crew was short-staffed is going to change the world, but a little recognition for a job well done can go a long way in building a teen’s self-esteem.
It also reinforces something I’ve told my reporters since the day I started supervising them: I’m never going to ask you to do something I couldn’t, wouldn’t or haven’t done myself.
I like to lead by example whenever possible. If that means doing some of the grunt work no one else wants to do, so be it.
I used to be obsessed with watching the show “Undercover Boss,” where the leader of a company anonymously steps into various entry-level jobs. It’s a hoot to watch them unable to do the things they’re telling their employees to do. It’s a joy to watch them understand how their work really affects everyone there.
In many cases, these leaders will say they used to do some of that work themselves, but it’d been a long time. Before they head out, they question if they’ll still be able to do it like they did when they were younger.
I’m just a middle manager cog in the machine at The Lima News, but I can proudly say I’ve still got it.