Why I’m leaving journalism (for now, anyway)


It was only until I started to empty my drawers and began to throw away the piles of papers and dozens of notebooks with undecipherable, handwritten notes that I began to realize the magnitude of my decision to leave journalism.

It was a cop in Tijuana who predicted I was going to be a journalist. A friend of mine with an uncontrollable temper got into a scuffle with a couple of cops after they stopped our vehicle for supposedly driving suspiciously. We knew it was just an excuse to empty our pockets.

After the altercation in which the cops beat up my friend, we were all taken to the police station where I requested to speak with a judge.  My friend had bruises on his face and arms, and so did the cop for that matter.

I don’t recall what I said, but I actually convinced the judge that the cops had abused their authority and stopped us only because they wanted our money (we had none because ironically we had been mugged the night before).

Angry because the judge had sided with us, one of the cops turned and said: “This guy is going to be a lawyer.”

“No,” replied the other as we left  the police station. “He’s going to be a journalist.”

Thank you for the suggestion, cop.  I did become a journalist, and it has been the biggest honor of my life.

I have been privileged to chronicle stories about the everyday struggles of immigrants, from those who die trying to cross the border, to those who take on two or three jobs so they can give their children a better life.

Occasionally I got the chance to expose a crook or two, and I’m proud to have received letters threatening me with lawsuits.  It was unpleasant to get hate mail virtually every time I wrote a story about Latinos.  But I must’ve been doing something right.

Yes, overworked and underpaid. And proud of it. I don’t think you can say that about many professions.  Although that Tijuana cop would probably disagree.

Who else but journalists put their life on the line covering the drug wars, wildfires or prison riots for so little pay?  I take my sombrero off to those who decide to stay while our industry evolves into, well, something.

But for now I have to go.

I guess I haven’t really answered why I’m leaving a full-time job as a reporter at a major metropolitan newspaper, and doing it voluntarily. Yes my new job at a marketing company pays more, seems more stable, and offers me a chance to learn new and valuable skills.

Maybe I don’t want to hear any more about furloughs, layoffs, and shrinking pages.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t see any newspaper come out with a successful model to follow.  Or perhaps because something just doesn’t sound right what I hear newspapers are focusing their resources on  diminishing, rather than expanding markets.

Maybe it would have been different if newspapers didn’t have to shrink to the point where their sustainability depended on an online business model.  If that’s the case, there’s still a long way to go as far as shrinking.

Or maybe it’s me.  Perhaps I’m just ‘Pulling a Palin’ — or quitting in the face of adversity.

I don’t know.  I’m still trying to figure this out.

Maybe I’ll find the answers in one of the overstuffed drawers I need to clear.