Former newspaper reporter Allyson Bird has written a blog
about why she left her career in newspapers, or as my wife and I call it "The Life." Her blog is being widely circulated and is getting lots of attention among people in my field. The blog got to me. It didn't make me mad. She makes some fairly decent points. It got to me because I consider journalists to be so lucky.
Almost done with a bachelor's degree in journalism, I picked up a camera and started taking pictures. I'll never forget the moment I knew that I'd do this for the rest of my life. Ironically it was at a college football game. All I had was a 50mm and a short zoom lens. A big play happened right in front of me, so close that I got it with the 50mm. That was it. That quick. The moment I knew I wanted to be a photo-journalist.
I don't want to act like a grizzled 40-year veteran. I'm 37 years old. I've been taking pictures at newspapers for 16 years. I've re-assessed my career path several times over the years and even in the grips of frustration, I know this is what I'm supposed to be doing. I souped film in the late 90s, transitioned to digital, learned video and sound and I love this business now more than I did in 1997, when I started.
After 16 years and five newspapers, there's a long list of friends who've left the life for whatever reason. Some good. Some weak. I support four people on what I make as a journalist. We make sacrifices at home, I guess, but they're mostly "first-world" sacrifices. There are jobs I could go get probably, but there are plenty of jobs that pay less, take advantage of you more and are less emotionally satisfying. I always have a camera with me. My boss calls at odd hours. I wake up in cold sweats worrying that I misspelled a name. My schedule changes all the time. I took a picture for the paper every single day
for a year in 2012.
I hope my kids grow up seeing that their father wasn't obsessed with money. That he did work he loved, but still knew how to strike a balance between obsession and good parenting. I hope I teach them to chase their passion, whatever it might be.
So far this year, I've fed a balloonfish, watched kids make paper airplanes, seniors learn to belly dance, and taken pictures on the floor of the state Senate. I've met senators and CEOs, volunteers, coaches, cops, recovering addicts, taxidermists, pawn brokers, firefighters, high school athletes, and the guy who cleans the scuff marks off of the floor of the State Capitol with a tennis ball. I watched Edwin Evers fish through snow and rain for eight hours, watched a homeless man dance with his friend's daughter at a shelter on Valentine's Day and found beauty in parts of the city that the police told me stay away from. I've also chipped away at enterprise stories. (I have a really good one coming up). That's since January.
It's not about the money to me. It's about discovery. I'm chasing down ideas, exploring the city, meeting new people and trying to connect readers to their lives with that perfect moment. I will work late so I can get one more video interview done, but will still get home in time to tuck my daughter into bed and read her stories.
That's the life.
Donald Calmes uses a tennis ball attached to a pole to clean scuff marks off of the floor of the state capitol after the State of the State address at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City Feb. 4, 2013. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
State Rep. Katie Henke, R-Tulsa, stands in line with third grade students Jacob McElroy, Damian Munoz, Charlie Nickel, and Bam Greyson (from left to right) as they line up to go to another classroom during school at Eliot Elementary School in Tulsa on Jan. 22, 2013. State legislators spent an entire school day shadowing teachers as part of OEA's Giving Legislators an Educational Experience, or GLEE Week. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Bill Dausses, the dive safety officer at the Oklahoma Aquarium, looks for "Big Puff." a porcupine puffer, so he can feed him mussels at feeding time on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. Divers get in the Coral Reef exhibit to feed the fish and clean algae off of the walls everyday except Sunday at 3:30 PM. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Kendrick Williams shoots baskets outside his family's home on south Adams street in Sapulpa on Monday, Feb. 18, 2013. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Tulsa Police Officer Florentino Chairez (left) watches while another officer searches a man who was arrested for public intoxication at 61st and Peoria in south Tulsa on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Rita Shisler, age 91, puts on a hip scarf before her first belly dancing class at the Tulsa Jewish Retirement and Health Care Center in Tulsa on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. "The more you do, the more you can do, she says. "I don't want to sit in the corner and have the cobwebs building over me, so I'm going to keep moving." JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Sergeant at Arms Dennis Baker (right) ushers Governor Mary Fallin to the podium in the House of representatives during the State of the State address at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City Feb. 4, 2013. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Standing in snowfall at the front of his boat, Edwin Evers casts into Grand Lake during practice day for the upcoming Bassmaster Classic near Grove, Oklahoma, on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Michael Poindexter, general sales manager at Don Thornton Volkswagen of Tulsa, gets inside the trunk of a VW Jetta as he helps put the finishing touches on cars before the Tulsa International Auto Show at the Expo Center in Tulsa on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Taxidermist Tim Fitzer carries the mold of a deer and the deer's antlers back to a wall in his shop to dry after he added detail in the face as he works in his shop near Leonard, Okla., on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. There are several steps in the process of completing a project. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
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