Need a lift? Spend career day with third graders

A lot of us love newspapering because of all the challenges the business presents us each day. But from time to time, all those challenges can have us feeling really down in the dumps.
We continue to grapple with how we communicate our journalism and advertising to an increasingly diffused and finicky market. Revenue challenges mean we have to work even harder in an attempt to deliver more with tighter budgets. And we always seem to hear from those who are all too quick to hate us for what we do or don’t do.
Sometime it can be so discouraging. I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves “Is this all really worth it?”
Here’s a tip. Next time you find yourself in one of those deep ruts, go talk to a classroom of third graders.
It was Halloween afternoon and I was feeling pretty rotten when I went to speak to a third-grade class as part of a career day event at a local elementary school. I was so preoccupied with what seemed to be nothing but problems at work that I wondered whether I could sound very positive about what I did for a living to a bunch of youngsters.
But my spirits began to pick up the minute I walked into the room. The students were actually excited to see me. Well sure, it was Halloween and many of them sported costumes and were just plain excited – period. But they OOOO’d and AAAAAH’d when the teacher introduced me, clearly indicating they thought the newspaper was pretty important.
And a funny thing happened. The more I told them about how the newspaper worked – all that a talented and hardworking staff does each day – the more they looked at me in astonishment.
“And we do all of this seven days a week, 365 days a year!” I boasted. “The newspaper doesn’t even take off for Christmas!” That right there blew them away.
I held up my cell phone, touched an app and up popped my newspaper’s e-edition. “You could be in China right now and you could use your phone to read your hometown paper today!” I said.
It was as if I had just turned one of their notebooks into a bar of gold.
And I even thought to myself, “Heck yeah, what we pull off every day is pretty darned special.”
Then came the Q&A. Of course there was the perennial “How much do you make?” question. We’re in football-crazy West Texas, so I was required to tell them the name of my favorite NFL team. The Dallas Cowboys was the obvious – and safe – answer.
“Have you ever covered a scary story?” – clearly homage to all things Halloween.
When another girl asked the same question, the boy next to her clarified, “What she means is have you ever covered a murder?” I said “yes,” but you would have thought I had just told them the scariest of all Halloween ghost stories.
And there were other questions that sounded rather simple but were actually more profound because they made me stop and think and take stock.
“Did you ever cover a story that really made you happy?” Hmmm. There have been countless stories that fit that category. The family that lost everything in a house fire only to be helped back on their feet by an entire community. Or how people from my West Texas town help people affected by some far-away disaster. Too many good stories to count or recall.
“Why did you choose your job? What do you like most about it?” I love my job because every day is something new. I learn something every day. It’s not boring. I get a front-row seat to life. We get to find out what is happening in this world before most anyone else does, and we get to tell y’all about it every day. What my newspaper does every day serves this community and helps people be more involved in their community because they know what’s going on thanks to the paper. I get to meet interesting people every day.
Heck, I love my job because I get to play hooky from it and spend a wonderful afternoon visiting with some really neat students!
There is something to be said about third graders. They still have fresh treads. Compared to a lot of grown-ups, most of them are pretty good at not letting life bog them down.
True, one could argue they are pretty easily impressed. I would contend they are, at times, the perfect prescription for someone who gets cynical to the point of believing what they do doesn’t amount to much.
I walked out of that classroom that afternoon refreshed and feeling a lot better about what we do in the newspaper business. All thanks to a bunch of giddy youngsters, including the little girl who took my hand and really, really, reALLY, REALLY, REALLY wanted to know . . . my favorite color.
Blue, with gold running a really, really, reALLY, REALLY, REALLY close second.