pig3Charlie Litchfield/Des Moines Register

I haven’t gotten a chance to post an update about about my new job, but after the events that transpired this weekend, I felt it was worth some reflection.

Today I was on a crowded university campus, surrounded by strangers, gathering quotes for a story, and suddenly everything stopped. I found myself frozen, with my head craned at the sky, staring at a ginormous inflatable pig floating above me.

That’s right. I saw a pig fly.

I let the surreal-ness of the situation wash over me: I’m living in Iowa now. I’m covering a parade. And there is the ginormous inflatable pig floating above me.

I looked through the crowd, searching for my husband, a photographer who was also covering the event (he took the photo above). His job is the reason we moved to Iowa six months ago. Before we came here, I had been working for The Associated Press. There, I had the opportunity to cover big, national issues, and my work was published in news outlets all over the world.

Now, I write for a small newspaper in central Iowa. I cover parades and local school board meetings, and whatever else matters to the local community.

And I’m really happy.

My life is vastly different, but in going back to community journalism, where I started my career eight years ago, I am finding that it is mostly the work I love, not the prestige, and that didn’t change _ even now that I don’t get that big ego rush from seeing a story of mine get published in The Washington Post or some other big-name newspaper.

There’s been a lot written lately about people who choose journalism as a career, people like me. There’s been a lot of questions about how smart it is to pick a job where, given the current state of the industry, you may find yourself making less than you did when you started out, like this (now former) journalist did. It’s all true, but so is the good stuff, like what this journalist wrote about.

I recently caught up with one of my best friends and he told me about a photojournalist who shot for like, National Geographic or something, and then moved to Denmark to work for a small newspaper because he wanted to be part of one before they were gone (I’m probably butchering the details but that’s how I remember the story.)

I wish my reasons were as noble.

Honestly, after six months of looking for a job, I just wanted to write, I wanted to get out of the house, I wanted the main event of my day not to be an Ugly Betty marathon on Netflix or a 30-minute run on the treadmill at the local YMCA.

But mostly, I wanted to keep working in journalism.

And that’s what I’m doing. I’m working in journalism. I’m writing. I’m out every day exploring the world around me. That’s what I remind myself as I drive 30 minutes through farm fields to get to work each day. That’s what I tell myself on days where I wonder if this job still makes any sense.

And now, I think I’m going to have to remind myself about that ginormous inflatable pig, because when it floated by and got caught in a tree branch, and the crowd gasped collectively, I laughed so hard I almost cried.

I don’t know why people would mess with fiction when there’s real stuff that happens all around us, every day, that you can’t even make up.

I just read a magazine article that quoted Julia Louis-Dreyfus talking about her eighth-grade physics teacher and how he gave her advice that has stuck with her: Have fun at all costs.

Well, I had a lot of fun today.

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2 thoughts on “

  1. Sara Kiesler says:

    Beautiful piece, Jessie. Congrats on the move. I admire your passion and your joy. I never thought I’d see anyone say they were glad to move to a smaller paper with less pay and less prestige, but, you know, when pigs fly…. 🙂

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