I am a newspaper girl at heart, but I live in a digital world. Welcome to my world, where paper is now digital and newspapers are collectible antiques. You see, I may not be fit for the digital world, because deep down, I love interviewing people. I love telling their stories. I love being in the middle of the action. I love writing with deadlines looming over my shoulders. I love taking photographs at events. Life happens – things change, and now my world is unrecognizable.
I have been out of the full-time newspaper and magazine business for almost 12 years, after working as a reporter, copyeditor, managing editor, and designer for nearly 20 years (not counting high school and middle school where I learned my love of newspapers). I have been a stay-at-home-mom only working part-time as I raise my children.
I am behind the eight-ball in 2021, as I learn Asana, Dropbox, Word Press, Slack, and Spark, to name a few new apps in this digital world. I am a Facebook posting mom who was laid off in 2010 three weeks before my daughter was born. I worked as the managing editor in special publications at a mid-sized daily newspaper for more than seven years. I turned in my FMLA paperwork to give notice for leave and was nonchalantly told that my position was eliminated.
It really wasn’t eliminated, per se, but it felt like it because a young woman started in my position that Monday. The newspaper, which was in court-ordered receivership at the time, did not want to hold my position while I was on FMLA leave. It was eventually ruled sexual discrimination by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but I received no compensation. It would have been a messy lawsuit, one that my husband and I could not afford. And, one that, at the time, I was not ready for emotionally. After all, there was no guarantee of reward.
During the next 11 years, I dabbled in many part-time jobs, while raising my children. I freelanced at a weekly newspaper and for a large out-of-state newspaper. That’s when I pursued a photography degree while working part-time in sales and marketing at my husband’s family-owned business. For a short time, I became a newborn hospital photographer then I became a substitute teacher for elementary, middle, and high school.
My husband and I made the choice for me to work part-time, so I could be involved in our children’s lives. I became a volunteer at the schools, at church, at Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts. Not just an hour or two here and there, but more than most people work in a week. “Mama, if you were paid for all the volunteer work you do, we’d be rich!” my daughter eloquently said at age 6. Just so you know, my kiddos are nine years apart, my son, age 20, will be a junior in college this fall. My daughter, age 11, is starting middle school.
I keep telling myself, it is time to go back to work full time. But I keep making excuses as I look for my dream job. The one where I still get to volunteer a ton. The one that lets me take time for a family vacation and weeklong camping trips with my Scout troops. I keep trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up!
But, despite trying many other interests, I always return to writing. It is my passion. I keep saying, ‘I’m going to write a book.’ I started a couple, but like many of you, I have not finished them. Not only that, I have not freelanced in about 5 years. I was busy with the other side jobs, raising children, working part-time at the family business, and volunteering all of the time.
Digital World Challenges
Newspapers are a dying breed. Journalism has changed drastically in this digital world. With Social Media and instant news in every format, I am an outdated journalist trying to become somewhat relevant in this modern, digital world that has turned my world upside down as I attempt to freelance directly for a website.
I remember being the “expert” at my first job after college as a copyeditor on the night desk. I was helping answer questions about Quark and Photoshop from designers and editors who were more than double my age as the newspaper transitioned directly to plate. But, now I am the one messaging for help. Crying into the digital world for search engine optimization and Pinterest art.
Writing directly for the digital world is exciting and challenging. Terms like freelancing are not used. Now it is a blogger and an influencer. Me an influencer in the digital world? Maybe. I’m going to try. I enjoy reading inspiring stories from others, so hopefully, someone will be encouraged by my words.
Trying to learn Asana and Slack to communicate with team members took some time. Why not email I wondered? Why not talk on the phone? I know it’s all about time and efficiency, but I miss face-to-face collaboration. I miss the open layout of the newsroom.
I have never met the editors I am writing for or even chatted on the phone with them. We message through Slack, for the most part, an online chat platform that you use on the computer or access through your phone, no person is necessary on the other end to send them a message. In journalism school, I was taught: “You write for your editor.” It’s tough to know what she wants when I do not know her.
I have been on the struggle bus, but I am learning, what feels like, very slowly in this fast-paced digital world how to communicate in formats like Asana and Slack so multiple people in various cities can be a part of the project. I am starting to get the hang of it. I am starting to feel like I am joining the 21st Century. But, right when I think I have all the communication formats figured out, I realize I have to learn another one to be able to send photos. This time it is Dropbox. I have heard of it, but not used it, until now.
But WordPress?! WordPress lets you format your article or post for a website or blog. It was completely new to me. Yes, I know it is not new. I had heard of it, but I had not tried it. When I worked as a newspaper designer, I was a designer, that’s it. When I worked as a reporter or editor, I turned the articles and photos over to a designer. As an editor, I worked with the designer and they would bring my vision to life, but often created beautiful layouts on their own.
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Now, in this digital world, I must write my post or article and prepare it for the website. The training videos I watched to learn Word Press made me feel like a dinosaur. I thought that term was for my parents’ generation – not mine. This certainly does not feel natural for me.
My picture was in the newspaper when I was in 1st grade using the first computer that my elementary school owned back in 1980. I used to be with it. I used to be trendy. But here I was literally thinking: “I FEEL LIKE A DINOSAUR!”
Truth be told, all of the virtual training and learning independently was intimidating. I felt alone. All this new jargon, all of these new and foreign programs – at least new to me – were overwhelming. I kept asking myself, would it ever make sense? Would I ever be able to make my article reach a high enough search optimization score that would be good enough for the digital world?
The first article post I formatted in WordPress, took me forever. You don’t even want to know how many hours I spent trying to format it. Re-watching the training videos again and again and again. I am not exaggerating. But it finally clicked. I was so proud of myself, I did it!
Finding My Home in the Digital World…Finally
Each day I am improving. Each day it becomes easier. I am excited to learn new programs and new styles of writing. I am excited for future possibilities as I gain confidence in the digital world. For those who are writers, you always remember your first byline and your first front-page story above the fold. That feeling was the same years later seeing my byline on a published article on the front page of a website instead of in print.
I am not sure what will come next as I approach the half-century mark, my daughter becomes a teenager and my son becomes a young adult. But, I do know, I will continue to pursue new opportunities, set goals, follow my dreams, and navigate through the digital world that I am now living in, regardless if I choose to or not.
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