Media Moves

A young biz journalist quits her job and looks forward to the future

November 23, 2010

Kat Greene, a former business journalist for Dow Jones Newswires, Institutional Investor and the Arizona Republic’s business news desk, writes on Facebook Tuesday why she has walked away from the career she always wanted.

Here is what she wrote. Greene gave Talking Biz News permission to repost the entire text.

Greene writes, “A little over a month ago I was sitting at a desk with two computer screens on it. The keyboard was kept on a little separate tray that was too high, to which was attached another tray where the mouse sat, also too high. The phone was more than an arm’s length away, which meant I wore a headset and had to jump up a few inches from my chair to answer calls.

“I sat there at my desk that day working on my posture. Were my hips properly positioned under my rib cage? Did my spine make a straight line, and was my head properly balanced at the top? I was clicking annoyedly through stories on a blog that publishes gossip about the publishing industry, frustrated that I’d read the most interesting stories already. My phone rang. I looked at the caller ID: Unknown Number. They can leave a message, I thought, and clicked over to Facebook.

“Every time I opened a new tab on Google Chrome, it displayed my eight most-read websites. The Wall Street Journal’s website was not one of them. I had probably 12 windows open. One of them was about high yield bonds, and I looked at it only sporadically, to see if anything there was worth writing about. Nothing was. People were hustling excitedly around me, something about the exchange rate in China, or something. They wanted us to call our sources for their opinions on China. My sources, investors in the debt of companies in North America, did not much care about China. One was working through changes in his Fantasy Football team before that night’s game.

“When my boss called me in to a conference room, I knew right away something was wrong. He didn’t want to talk about the Giants’ chances in the World Series that night, so I figured I was about to get canned. Only he didn’t fire me. He stared at his notebook as his new boss gave me two choices: I could cancel my trip home the following week and work extra hard for the next two weeks to prove to them my job was not redundant, or I could quit that day and be paid for my time without working.

“This had been my dream job. When I was very young and playing house, I would go off to ‘work,’ where I typed away at a broken old typewriter. Writing stories came through me, as though I didn’t do it intentionally. I felt called to it. My professors in college tried to warn me that journalism was changed, but I thought maybe they didn’t understand the changing nature of technology. I thought I could leave college, become part of journalism and change it. I wanted to be a managing editor.

“To be a managing editor of a news organization, you need to be in the business awhile. You need to start somewhere, as a reporter or copy editor, perhaps, and you need to work for a long time, slowly working your way through the system and getting promoted until one day, you are in charge. In the two years following college, I worked at three news organizations. The same thing happened at all three: I went in excited and ready to work. And within months I lost all my fire and settled into posture-checking and website-reading. As far as I can tell, the whole middle section of the path to being a managing editor is missing. Those reporters and editors are being laid off and forced back out into the job market, which means they’re leaving journalism for good. It makes you wonder why you’re doing what you do: If this road leads nowhere, why am I on it?

“It didn’t take me more than half an hour to decide that I wanted to leave. I sat at my desk in an initial panic, thinking about my student loan debt and what the smart decision was. The desk seemed to fall away from me. All those things I didn’t care about, they were moving away into space, falling apart on the movie set of my life. I rushed out of the building to get advice from my friends and parents. What’s the right thing, the smart thing? Everybody said I should stick. In two weeks, I could show them just how good I was, they said. I listened to myself soliciting their advice and I realized it didn’t matter what they said. I was already skipping on the sidewalk. I was free.

“It’s hard for people on the inside to understand. My editor is a good man, a company man. I thought he might cry as I sat across from him and told him what I wanted to do. My co-workers, good friends of mine, were outraged: how could they do this to me? But I was already excitedly planning what I’d do with my new spare time. For years, I’d wanted nothing more than to be a journalist in New York City. But now I was doing the one thing no one would have predicted, and I felt liberated. I was free from everyone’s expectations of me, from my own impossible goals, from the path I’d started down years ago.

“I don’t know what’s next, but I do know this: my world is my own. I’m happy, and I’m going back to a place where I’ll be surrounded by people who love me, under a sky where you can see the stars. I have faith that whatever’s in front of me will be amazing. I know some people will see this as failure, as giving up, as the inability to “make it.” To those people, I wish my kind of success.”

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