One of the things I enjoy most about the industry in which I work is the camaraderie. I have friends, and not just the Facebook kind, with whom I have stayed in touch over the years. Many of them were co-workers of mine, which makes me believe there is something inherently social about the television-news business.
Having not worked in any other field, I can only guess that the amount of imbibing done by news employees tops most others’. In my 20’s, so many nights after the 11 o’clock news were spent at local watering holes, where we would expound upon the day’s events. It is a practice that continued well into my 30’s and pretty much to this day. Conversations went something like this: “I can’t believe I saw that dead guy in the street” or “Can you believe the director punched up that camera at that exact moment?” Much laughter would follow one of these two comments, and it was usually the first.
When you break down the root of said socializing, it is not difficult to determine the source. Our job is depressing. If we’re not writing about kids killed in a fire or murdered teens, we’re writing about politics and fraud (often in the same story). It creates a need for an outlet to blow off steam.
I’ve taken to not watching the news when I can. Weekends are spent ignoring what’s going on in the world locally and nationally. That is, until Sunday when I need to be in the know for the workweek. Vacations often include watching some news, only to judge its production and talent value. I wish I didn’t even care about that, but it’s easy to critique the job you do when it’s done by someone else who is nameless and faceless.
I imagine the same scenario in newsrooms across the country. A shooting on the south side of Chicago, a fatal fire on Cleveland’s east side, a killer on the loose in suburban Reno. After the news every night in all of these towns, the migration happens. People hop in their cars after the show, pull out of the parking lot and meet four blocks away at their spot. In most of these places, the bartender knows the clientele. Drinks are had, some laughs are shared and eventually everyone goes home.
There are many nights, before I go to bed, that I find myself wondering why I do what I do. I like to say that no one will live or die based on what they see in the news. There will, however, be people who are deeply saddened by it. That does not usually include those of us who are writing it. We’ve desensitized ourselves to the point where we are unshaken despite knowing we should be.
In the meantime, I will continue to show up when I am scheduled to and continue to mindlessly write stories that someone else will see and say, “That’s awful.” And each night as I fall asleep, I will ask for the strength to do it again tomorrow.