Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Advice to Those Who Contemplate Leaving Newspapers to Teach

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Advice to Those Who Contemplate Leaving Newspapers to Teach

Article excerpt

"PEOPLE SAY I'M crazy, doing what I'm doing;

Well, they give me all kinds of warnings, to save me from ruin."

These words from John Lennon's song, "Watching the Wheels," echoed through my mind many times in recent months as I went through the agonizing process of making a major career change.

I decided, at age 41, to quit working as a daily print journalist and, instead, to teach journalism full time. It was a decision made neither in haste, nor out of displeasure with my job.

After all, many people would be content working as a national news editor at the Los Angeles Times. That meant big-city journalism -- Hollywood, sunshine, Mickey Mouse and all the other amenities that come with life in Southern California.

But, after working for 8 1/2 years at the Times -- and another 10 years before that at several newspapers in Illinois, including the Chicago Sun-Times -- I found myself wanting more out of my career.

The late-night deadlines, the breaking news stories and rush-hour traffic provided plenty of exhilaration, but not enough satisfaction.

During my years at the Times, I also taught journalism classes part time at California State University-Fullerton. The many hours I spent working with the students was not only challenging but, at the same time, gratifying. It seemed to rekindle the kind of enthusiasm I experienced when I was a journalism student in college.

So, why did I continue to have self-doubts after I had accepted a position as assistant professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh? Part of it was due to the reaction of some colleagues and friends, who really did think I was crazy:

* Why would I take a job that paid substantially less than I was currently making?

* Was it worth the risk of giving up seniority and job security for a tenure-track position that offered no guarantee beyond a two-year contract?

* How would I adjust to no longer working with professional writers and editors who were among the best in the business?

* Would I be able to keep my editing skills sharp, just in case teaching did not work out?

* Did I know that it got cold and snowed in Wisconsin?

And, then, there was always that adage: Those who can, do. …

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