As much as I have tried to dissuade him, it looks like my son is following in my footsteps.
Yes, he is going to be a journalist.
When Nick joined the Air Force after graduating from high school – as I had done decades earlier – I was very pleased and proud. When he took his money from the G.I. Bill and started college in Florida, I was excited for him. When he talked about going into sports marketing, I thought it was a perfect fit for him, as he is a complete sports fanatic.
But when he started to switch his emphasis more to journalism, I was pretty cautious.
Yes, I love my profession and am incredibly proud to be a journalist. But journalism is not what it once was.
First, the profit margins for newspapers and other news outlets are way down from where they were even a decade ago. You can still get work at smaller papers, but you might struggle to pay the rent.
Also, sadly, there are certain people in this country who seem to take great pride in hammering away on our free press. Just so I am clear, people who call something “fake news” just because they don’t accept reality are no friend of the free press that has helped keep our country great by speaking truth to power – no matter how uncomfortable that truth might be.
Also, anyone with access to a computer and an opinion these days seems to call themselves journalists. Trust me, they are not. There are many great news institutions doing fantastic work daily. If you choose to not to accept what is going on in the world around you, that is your own fault.
So, this is not a world I would wish upon any fresh-faced journalist.
But Nick is doing what he loves to do and is following his heart – something that I have always told both of my children to do. I can’t fault him for that.
Thankfully, he is all about sports and not news. As my first two jobs at daily newspapers were covering sports, I understand his enthusiasm. It is quite different now, of course. I wrote stories, took pictures and designed sports pages. The focus for Nick will be writing, sure, but also Facebook posts and Instagram posts and Twitter and posting video. Most of his writing will also be online and not really in print.
And we all know what comes when you post online – the raging comments from people. Online comments sections can be a cesspool filled with angry, ill-informed nincompoops. Sports fans are certainly no different than new junkies in this regard.
Thankfully, my son has a pretty thick skin and has grown up in an online culture.
One thing I have enjoyed is reading the content he has written that is posted by his university’s school newspaper. They only do occasional print editions, so most of the stuff is online. He even reaches out to seek writing advice and criticism of his pieces. He wants to learn and get better, so he truly wants me to be critical.
I am, but in the way a dad would be of his son’s work. And honestly, the kid is pretty good.
He recently got to sit in the press box of his first big name college game and go to the locker room for interviews after the game. He seems to have handled it all in his usual understated way.
I credit the military with much of his maturity. He served for six years before starting college, so he is not a kid recently graduated from high school just looking for a weekend kegger.
Graduation is on the not-too-distant horizon, and then it will be into the working world of sports journalism for Nick. While the future is obviously unknown, I am certain of a few things.
First, he will not get rich. Second, he will be criticized no matter what he writes. And third, he will love being a journalist.
And his dad will be very proud of him.
Brad Jennings is Editor of The Ogle County Life.