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.


11 comentarios en “Why I’m leaving journalism (for now, anyway)

  1. Journalism isn’t the easiest field to enter, but for the true believers, it may be the hardest to leave. It has been my pleasure and honor to know and work with you, albeit for all too brief a time.

    Greg Gross
    San Diego CA

  2. Great fucking post Soto. You’re heart and soul is still in it. You’ll be back somewhere. You should be writing for the Times Magazine. See you soon!

  3. Aveces hacemos las cosas simplemente por que se sienten como la decision correcta en el momento. Y las razones se revelan despues…

    Hasta que trabajamos juntos otra vez en esta ruda profesion, suerte mi amigo!

  4. Amen, hermano. You put into words the thoughts of us who have left, or who are thinking of leaving (in other words, all of us). Best of luck.

    We’ll see you in the bright place at the end of this dark tunnel that journalism is going through right now. I think I’m beginning to see it, off in the distance.

  5. What a fine job you have done all these years. I have long been an avid reader/fan of your work. Thank you for all the stories and insight. It has been sad days for newspaper journalism for some time, hasn’t it? Hiram, I wish you well in whatever comes your way next, and next after that…

  6. Four decades ago I copy-kidded my way into reporting because I thought its practice could snatch the innocent from the jaws of tyrants. Two decades ago I left its practice because I could feel the mission was aborted by the greed of owners and the fear of editors who instinctively, reflexively carried out their orders.
    You’ll be better off working in marketing where you needn’t contend with the phony piety that killed our craft.

  7. I left a comment in this space, about fearful editors and greedy ownerships killing investigations, embracing celebrities, elevating pretence to reality, etc. etc. but it was rejected. I want to tell you that your writing will probably improve and your sanity be more ensured when you enter the world of the corporation, if only because that beast does not pretend to tell the truth.

  8. You are getting out at a time when journalism is a dying profession, at least with respect to newspapers. As you embark on your new and exciting career consider that it means the best is yet to be. That has been my experience since taking the Uj-T buyout in 1992 after nearly 30 wonderful years as a reporter. I wish you all the best!

  9. Hiram, great post. I want you to know that it was a real pleasure working with you. You never let anything get in the way of telling your stories. You are a real pro. Congrats on the new job and I am sure you will be a success.


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