When I tell people that I am majoring in Journalism and that I’d like to be a war photographer, for good reason, I am usually asked a plethora of questions: “why?” “isn’t that kind of tough/dangerous/depressing?” And even though I am asked these things all the time, I hardly ever have an eloquent answer that will gently unfurrow their brows.
The truth is, I’ve never had to ask myself “why” I want to be a journalist, and I’ve never worried about “tough/dangerous/depressing” jobs because in my eyes, someone has got to do it. Not everyone looks at it so simply as I do however, and after so much pressure, even I had to eventually ask myself “why?”
I realized with this question that the answer was because of my long-time personal and professional hero, Amy Goodman. For years I have listened intently to Democracy Now! – the news broadcast that Goodman hosts five days a week -, first on the KRCL radio station at seven every weeknight, then moving on to podcasts.
It wasn’t until recently, however, that I was able to give count to how deeply I identified with those broadcasts when I was given the amazing opportunity to interview Goodman. During this interview, she helped me find the words that I might someday be able to use to finally explain to someone why I have chosen the path that I did.
Because even though I like to tell myself that I don’t worry about the “tough/dangerous/depressing job,” I am still a human who is going to have to deal with those very real difficulties of the job. With a mixture of questions not unlike the ones I am typically asked and the things I am personally curious about, we spoke mainly on issues of journalism and the hardships which that career path brings.
The world (or at least the parts of it that we find pertinent enough for news) is usually very much on the war side of the “war and peace” ratio rather than peace. As someone who occasionally gets so fed up with what goes on in the world that I have to turn off the news for a few days, I constantly wonder how this would affect the journalist who reports it day in and day out.
“How do you stay positive?” I asked her after she explained to me that there isn’t one thing that is hardest about her job, but that it’s all difficult. “I see all these different groups and people organizing, and that’s what ultimately gives me hope is that people have hope,” says Amy.
When it comes down to it, as a journalist, your life is not about you. The things that come with the job may be difficult, but there are people all over the world who have much more difficult jobs, and even they continue to hope. We chose this job with the knowledge – and often because of the knowledge – that there are are bigger things in the world than ourselves.
The job is and always will be difficult. But the rewards are greater. The freedom, ability and responsibility to share knowledge in this world has its inherent negativity, but also the incredible possibility of positivity and change: “We can find a common ground … in areas that you rarely see, and I see it all the time. You know, the prosecutor and the prosecuted …”
At this point in the interview she brought up a beautiful story that she had reported on on her show which I was also familiar with. Several activists were – in an unprecedented move by the judge – allowed to state their piece, their intentions, and in the end the prosecutor had to agree with them. It is one of the best examples that I could possibly give of how and why I became a journalist.
So the next time someone asks me exactly what it is that made me so nuts as to become a documentarian, I will allow someone else to explain it for me, because I couldn’t have said it any better than Ms. Amy Goodman herself: “It’s very important to provide a forum for people to describe how they feel … that they had a chance to express their opinion and that it was accurately represented… that really matters.”