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A 24-Hour Job

By Larry Schooler

I remember learning just before I became a camp counselor that the job I was about to take — at a salary of $100 for the summer — was a 24-hour-a-day job. Even my rudimentary math skills convinced me that my employers were “exploiting” me (albeit lovingly and thoughtfully) for a job that would keep me busy even while sleeping. Naturally, they were right: my seven-year-old campers would wake up with nightmares and run home in the afternoons with insect bites.

But I loved my underpaid camp counseling job, just like I love my underpaid journalism job, and after hearing Lane DeGregory’s 20 tips for finding compelling narratives, I understand why. Lane does her job in such a way that she’s never really not doing it. In a way that makes me uncomfortable, since I’ve always wanted to maintain a work-life balance — and leave work at work. But my mind races, regardless, and Lane’s tips, from hanging out in bars to joining bowling leagues, seem like ideal ways to put that racing mind to good journalistic use.

I learned something else from Lane, too, something that she might not want to know. When she began her presentation, I saw a bubbly, bright-eyed blonde whom I expected would focus on the kind of sugary sweet stories I try to avoid reading or watching. Instead, I found a journalist who seems to crave telling stories of notable failures and less notable successes in ways that paint more accurate pictures of the world. My misperception of Lane reinforced one of the ideas she spoke about — not to discount someone because their culture and mine differ.

Read Lane DeGregory and learn. And remember — you can never really clock out at the end of a day on this job.

Larry Schooler is a public radio journalist based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Posted in reporting, sessions.20 Tips from 20 Short Pieces, speakers.Lane DeGregory on December 12, 2003 at 05:14 PM | Permalink