by Sadie Fisher
A part of me has always wanted to be a journalist.
I was given the American Girl doll Kit Kittredge for Christmas when I was three. Kit grew up during the Great Depression, and even at the age of 10, she was reporting on the stories in her town and trying to get published in her local newspaper.
I think that gift sealed my fate.
However, there is a paradox that comes with my wanting to be a journalist: I am a chronic people-pleaser. The irony of being a people-pleaser entering one of the most hated professions in the world isn’t lost on me. The public’s opinion of journalists has only gotten worse over the last few years — and that opinion didn’t start highly either.
In the world of “fake news,” journalists are viewed as the enemy of the people. It is not uncommon for people to read or hear a news story with staunch evidence and decide that it is simply not true. This has only been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic and conspiracies surrounding the virus, masks, and the vaccine.
It’s hard to see work you put 110% of your effort in to be picked apart because someone simply doesn’t agree with it. So how do I combat this? How do I take care of myself while entering a field where I am not well-liked by some?
One of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn is that it isn’t about me.Even though I put so much of myself into the stories I produce – it isn’t about me. It’s about producing a story that is ethical, factual, and fair.
At the end of the day, the reason I wanted to become a reporter isn’t to fulfill my ego or feel good about myself.
I’m going into journalism because I want the public to be informed and to tell stories that people should and need to hear. I want to elevate the voices of those that may not always have a platform to share their stories. I want to keep those in the public domain accountable for their actions and make sure everyone knows what is going on in their communities and the world.
And with this, I know that some people won’t like what I’ve reported on.
It can sting to not have people like you or the work you put so much time and effort into. But if my goal is to please everyone and make every single person happy with the stories I produce – I will be fighting a never-ending battle for the rest of my career.
This lesson is one I learned firsthand this summer. I interned at the TV news station in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin – the news station I grew up watching that helped fuel my love for news. I was able to see firsthand just how hard it is in this industry to please people. It didn’t matter if I was doing a story on the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine or a fun story about a local zoo welcoming a baby giraffe – a viewer would find something to complain about. Some viewers would even call if they didn’t like our outfit or our hair.
I quickly learned to never read the Facebook comments on a story I reported. Criticism – whether warranted or not – is just a part of being a journalist. And while that may be a hard pill to swallow – it’s something that will kill me if I don’t swallow it.
The main goal I need to have is to produce truthful stories with ethics at the forefront. I must strive for accuracy and objectivity – not my own sense of fulfillment. However, I have to keep in mind that I can’t completely ignore my needs and happiness.
The recent conversations surrounding mental health, and how important it is as journalists to keep ours in mind, has only made me more aware of my people-pleasing tendencies. I must listen to myself and recognize when it’s too much and need a break or someone to talk to.
While it’s important to exert full effort for the sake of objectivity – we as journalists can’t completely give ourselves to our jobs. We can’t put ourselves and our effort into our work if there is nothing for us to give. It is a balancing act that I am currently learning and will continue to learn for the rest of my career.
I will never please every person with my stories – and I can’t compromise my happiness to achieve it. But for what it’s worth – I think three-year-old Sadie would be happy (and pleased) with where I am now.