Life After -30- A Recovering Journalist's Journey From Burnout to Buyout and Beyond

9 years ago

First, an explanation of the title "Life After -30-":  Old-school journalists know that -30- is a symbol that signifies the end of a story. I'm going to blog about my experiences since I put a -30- on my newspaper career.

My last two newspaper jobs were as a copy editor. Few people outside the business know what a copy editor is. The Washington Post's Deborah Howell summed up the job perfectly in a recent column:

"Copy editors are the last stop before disaster at newspapers. They get neither bylines nor glory, nor the praise they deserve. They write headlines (My note: Reporters do not write their own headlines!) and photo captions and catch large and small mistakes, bad grammar, awkward sentences, misspelled names, math miscalculations, and incorrect Internet addresses. They ask whether a story makes sense, and they check any fact possible on deadline."

Howell also noted (and I can attest to this) that copy editors on the staff of morning newspapers  work nights (usually starting between 2 and 5 p.m. and finishing between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.), weekends and holidays. Copy editors' eyes are the last on every story before the newspaper arrives on doorsteps and at newsstands. 

If you can discover what's wrong with a story, find a way to fix it, then sum up the story by writing a headline that sings, all under the pressure of deadlines, then copy editing might be the job for you. If you don't care about getting public recognition or having an active social life, then copy editing might be the job for you.

For me, the workload, the work schedule and a gradual loss of passion for what I was doing created a major, lasting state of burnout.  I kept plugging away, though, and eventually the solution arrived: a buyout offer.  It was tempting to jump at the chance, but I took the time to weigh the pros and cons, meet with a financial adviser and a lawyer and talk it over with family and friends. Everything led to the same conclusion: "It's time to go."

I had a plan. More on that next time.

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