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In case you haven’t seen the headlines, newspapers are in the midst of a rough patch. Community publications like The News are faring better than large dailies. In fact, most big papers have cut back on staff, reduced coverage and shrank both the number and size of their pages. Some have even shut their doors altogether or switched to publishing online only.
The News hasn’t been immune to the struggles caused by the sour economy. We’ve tightened our belts, shrank our newspaper’s width – though not as much as some papers – and increased our single-copy and subscription prices.
I firmly believe we’re worth 75 cents, which is about the price of a candy bar and less costly than a bottled pop out of most soft-drink machines.
I have several journalist friends and acquaintances who have been laid off or seen their jobs eliminated outright. Most aren’t optimistic about finding newspaper jobs.
A couple former newshounds have returned to graduate school and will be newly minted as MBA graduates or nurses. Another former editor, several years older, than me accepted an early retirement buyout and while his standard of living isn’t what it was when he was working, he tells me he couldn’t be happier. I believe him.
The turmoil in the journalism world has had me thinking about what I might do should my job be axed. I’m confident it won’t but most people, I suspect, ponder midway through their working lives what life would have been like had they pursued another career.
Having neither a wife nor any children to worry over and support, and being a relatively youngish 41, I would still have options outside of journalism. Here are a few of the possibilities.
Attorney: Sitting in the courtroom pews during long trials, I’ve convinced myself I could do as good a job as area attorneys making arguments before judges and juries.
Four years of law school would be daunting and for me would mean either commuting to Louisville or moving for a time.
Teacher: I readily confess a lack of patience would leave me poorly suited to teach younger kids, but I can see myself as a full-time teacher of high-school or even college students. Since 1998, I’ve taught classes for Oakland City University, putting my master’s degree to use teaching undergraduate courses in Old and New Testament and English.
I studied to become a Jesuit priest with hopes of becoming a university teacher. But then I missed home. I’ve enjoyed teaching part-time. Who knows? Maybe I missed my true calling.
Priest: Academically I’m only three semesters shy of completing my master of divinity degree, which would allow me to be ordained a priest. The odds of that happening now are slim.
I still consider myself a spiritual person and I like to think this Monday column sometimes substitutes, at least a little, for weekend sermons I might have been giving had I continued in the seminary.
Up to now, only a few people knew that I came within a few days of leaving my job last summer and returning to my priesthood studies. Why didn’t I? Fear of the unknown and angst over leaving a job I like were two major ones, as was the initial assignment awaiting me in Evansville: working at a parish for a year with no set duties. I’m not one to sit around waiting for someone to give me a job.
There are other reasons I’m not a priest today. I think the seminary system, at least as I’ve experienced it, is out-of-date and downright unhealthy emotionally for most priests in training. It’s too much of a closed-in environment. I’ll leave things there. I kept a journal during most of my stay at Saint Meinrad School of Theology and if I ever decide the time to write a book about seminary life, those notes will come in handy.
Farmer: My brothers farm the land I own and I’ve been little more than a laborer during planting and harvest seasons. I’ve wondered what it would be like to spend my golden years tending my acres at a somewhat leisurely pace in my future golden years.
For now, though, I and the other staffers at The News will continue to plod away at our jobs, hoping like everyone else the pace of economic recovery quickens and we turn to writing stories that convey more optimism about the future.