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Why My Ambitious Journalism Career Needs Less Ambition

My job woes have been well-documented, and sometimes the transparency has led to awkward confrontations, like that one time I wrote about how being the garbage disposal of content for a well-known brand, had driven me to the brink of insanity, which was thankfully curbed when the potentially permanent gig became abruptly temporary after the summer of hell.

Almost two years later, and I’m actually doing way worse than when I was dropped like a steaming hot potato, but “blessedly” recovered when the Medium Partner Program swiftly recruited me.

The only constant in this maddening trajectory to nowhere, is the vivid imagery of how I fucked it all up back in the spring of 2013, when I had two incredible job offers, and painfully made the wrong decision.

But what’s even more tragic, is the naivety that gripped my determination to make writing a full time existence.

I had spent the last five years juggling a corporate shift, while earning extra dough as a freelancer for various online pubs. The ability to garner a steady paycheck doing what I hated, while earning a decent amount of money fulfilling the dream of creative pursuits was quite exhilarating.

Managing a balanced lifestyle in the city of New York is no small feat, and since there seemed to be a great demand for original content, I wasn’t about to misuse any extra time on my hands.

The trick was to frequently check emails, and immediately jump at the request from editors during lunch breaks, or when you were able to prioritize your endeavors over the account opening documents that would eventually get processed without delay because you’re a seasoned pro.

When the editorial boost began around 2009, there was the assumption that it was only going to get better. The only way was up.

And with the exposure that I was getting from steadily furnishing pieces to ravenous pubs, and the accumulated compensation that was blissfully complimenting the corporate pay, it felt like the sky was the limit for an industry that was seemingly adapting quite well to the digital schedule.

The life-altering mistake that was made, was the stupidity of accepting the falsehood of how online journalism was going to greatly benefit from the revolutionary devices of engagement.

Instead of maintaining the regimen that was allowing me to “eat my cake and have it too,” I opted to switch to the imaginary path that would lead to the haven of editorial excellence without the interference of job duties, that were eating up the time that was meant to be spent cultivating my talent as the wordsmith with more than enough ammunition to sustain what was previously unattainable.

The period of hopeful contentment after I bought the lies of where the industry was headed has proven to be the life lesson that can only be learned when you submit to a risky thought process, that not only doesn’t pay off, but threatens to ruin everything you worked so bloody hard to preserve, back when dreams and ambition were the fuel for restless souls.

The landscape of informative activity has been converted to a chaotic wastebasket of recycled fare, that’s updated to provide the suitable appetizers for demanding influencers with blue check marks, who are now the curators of what we are forced to consume.

If we ever needed any proof of how our palettes have been regressed beyond recovery, we just need to pay attention to bloated timelines that are misshapen with trashy updates about the family of schemers, headed by the thuggish matriarch, who sets up the misleading storylines days before the season premiere of E!’s failing flagship staple.

Kris Jenner has hijacked all the facets of media, and the payback is the guarantee that major outlets will continue to showcase the victimized status of her notorious daughters with non-stop coverage of broken engagements and salacious tit bits that vilify the targeted Black men in their midst.

Reputable fashion magazines have been bribed into pathetic submission when it comes to installing Kendall Jenner as America’s Top Model, who will never be thwarted by the bountiful beauties of color, who can no longer compete against the machine of gross manipulation.

We also have to reflect on the way the Jussie Smollett case has been handled by news brands, as “experts” are brought in to discuss topics that they’re clearly not qualified to tackle. Black entertainers who have publicly vowed to continue advancing their careers at the expense of the LGBTQ community, are brought in to shame a young Black man, whose case is still pending.

Digital portals shamelessly yield to the pressure of not vetting information for the sake of luring robotic eyeballs to flashy headlines that don’t match the updated content that readers rarely read.

You’re blown away by the recklessness and savagery on display as “writers” concoct their own version of events by initiating a scandal that presents an esteemed filmmaker as the “sellout” who actually made a reasonable comment about the troubled young actor that never painted him as guilty.

But aside from the treacherous mechanisms that require gangsters instead of journalists who are dutifully committed to the truth, even if it’s not trendy enough for clicks, there’s also the climate of fame that has to be established before you can even begin to survey the tumultous job market.

This is where being an ambitious journalist with years of experience will haunt you out of the running.

Coming from a generation of hard-working parents who taught Gen-Xers to do the same with dedicated loyalty to boot, I find myself having to explore more tangible alternatives, due to the erratic temperature of editorial vultures, who don’t comprehend the value of those outdated attributes.

It’s the reason why CNN recently hired a well-informed Trumpster to assist with the political coverage of the upcoming 2020 election season. Sarah Isgur is a diehard Republican with no journalism experience, but her expertise lies in her invaluable familiarity with the presently toxic administration that she willingly helped to elevate during her brief tenure.

It’s the reason why certain outlets who previously touted their indifference to the increasing adherence to trends and trendsetters, have disgracefully discarded the writers who endorsed them, in favor of “featured” contenders who bring the wealth of brand alignments and prized visibility on the stage of crowded roundtables at MSNBC and the like.

Consider that CNN’s top dogs, Anderson Cooper and Chris Cuomo and NBC’s Jenna Bush Hager, are legacy babies, who were hired mainly because of their illustrious last names. The surefire way to excel in the business is to already be a ready-made relation of high society.

At the end of the day, the exhaustive search of where to go to spread your wings, reveals the sobering conclusion of how those wings will never propel the long-awaited takeoff to the destination of journalistic prowess at the centers that harbor the facts by truth-tellers.

It’s not realistic to foster any ounce of ambition when the industry-at-large isn’t recruiting talent with the currency of extensive work experience, because those qualities don’t hold up well, in the face of immense competition, when fighting back can only be a victorious endeavor when you’re defectively hosting the interests of opposing parties — with equal candor.

So what do you do with all that vitality that was aimed at purposefully exploring activated issues that systematically get buried under the national obsession of a brutish and bigoted leader and his army of goons?

You have no choice but to foster the investigative tendencies within the scope of personalized avenues, that won’t reap much in financial returns, but will at least keep those juices flowing with the knowledge that you may just be the very last of your kind.

For me, Medium has always been that place, and while the relationship with this platform has undergone a notable shift that isn’t altogether cozy, there’s very little doubt of how the industriousness of my mission has propelled my trajectory in ways that would never have manifested if money had been the sole motivator.

The intense drive and channeled discipline have never wavered, but the question of ambition and how to shape the prospects for a gratifyingly well-established career in journalism is an endeavor that will most likely remain an unrealized dream.

Not too long ago, I was drinking myself to oblivion, when that brutal truth was much too much to bear.

But sobriety has gifted me with the mental capacity to celebrate my innate ability to see through the relentless bullshit like the razor-sharp reporter, who knew exactly what CNN was doing when the cameras focused on the tarmac — featuring the jumbo jet of Candidate Trump for hours and hours — with the traitorous mission of getting him elected.

The gamble paid off, and so the non-stop coverage of Trumps, Kardashians, Jenners, the biracial royal, and other items that are meant to distract and numb the sensibilities of stunted adults, by over-paid bloodhounds, who have destroyed any remnants of what solid journalism used to exemplify — will continue to dominate the cycle of disposals at a more rapid rate.

In the meantime the ambition of a writer who miscalculated the forecast of a terminally-ill media will have to be curtailed accordingly.

When nobody wants you and there’s nowhere to go, the only thing to do is write about it.

It may not be ambitious, but it sure does feel good.

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