Most important characteristic for today’s journalists

Is it objectivity? How about fairness? Persistence? No, maybe its writing ability? No, no. I think passion is probably the most important characteristic of today’s journalists, not just the young’uns, just because if you have no passion for it, there’s no way the low salaries and long hours are going to keep you in the game.

An article in Online Journalism Review just reinforces this belief, at least for me:

Why? Passion fuels the desperation which prompts journalists, in this case, to find something, anything, that will allow them to keep doing that which they love to do. Without passion, journalists find it easier to give up and look for another way to make a living when jobs with impressive titles and solid wages are no longer easily available.

That makes passion the foundation upon which a career can be built, regardless of business environment. With passion, journalists look for new, less expensive ways to collect and publish information. And they look for topics and communities to serve for which their lesson passionate competitors have little demand.

Yes! How many people are out there doing things they only sort of like doing, just because it makes them a lot of money? Eh. What a boring life. I swear, this is my new favorite quote. Really.

One of my favorite books (which actually belongs to Josh and I just never returned it) is Edna Buchanan‘s autobiography, The Corpse Had A Familiar Face. She describes her love for stories and how she was always desperate to find another story, and another, and yet another — partly because she didn’t want to get sent back to New Jersey. Heheh. But we seem to have lost the desperation and pursuit in our newsrooms today, partly because we’ve become so indoctrinated to expect vacation days, time to work on just one story a day (or even two days), we need benefits, we need this, we need that, and oh, I work too many hours. Puh-leeze. If you want steady hours and benefits, get on the copy desk. But if you want to be a reporter, its not easy.

But if you really love it, if you really want it, if it really makes your blood boil, and you begin dreaming about it at night (as I did for one story I did in college that I really felt passionate about), then there’s nothing that won’t stop you from being a journalist.

You might say to me, but D, you’ve got this cushy desk job that you love. Why, yes, I do love it. I love doing online news, I love finding new ways and places to get the stories I’m processing picked up. I love writing edgy, almost too racy headlines that get picked up by Fark, Digg or Drudge. I love seeing the stats on stories and slideshows. So?

But if you want to be a reporter, then you’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone and work more than a few 10 and 12-hour days, go ask questions from people who don’t want to answer and drive to places to get a quote, even though you don’t have an exact address just yet. It’s not easy. But if it were easy, then everyone would be doing it, right?