Dec 23, 2022 3 min read

Live, Laugh, Log off

Live, Laugh, Log off
Everyone needs a little beauty sleep. (Photo illustration by Valerie Osier)

Journalists need to care for themselves as they care for others, so RANGE is taking a much needed week off.

Journalism is the sort of job many people consider a calling.

It’s intensely meaningful work, and also just intense work. The hours are long. The pay is lower than you might get in PR or communications. People are always yelling at you — readers who wish you’d covered something different, powerful people who wish you hadn’t covered them at all. Sometimes, the person yelling is your spouse or partner, telling you to log the hell off and have some semblance of a life.

If you hang in, it’s usually because something deeper is calling you to it, and that deeper meaning can make all the other trade-offs seem worth it. As a result, though, journalists tend to give a lot of themselves to the work — often far too much.

When I was a younger person, I started keeping track of the hours and days I spent in the newsroom every week. It was often over 50, never less than 40, and on some particularly overwhelming weeks, it was over 60. I almost never got a full weekend. I edited stories during vacations. I pulled all-nighters frequently from home, and on more than a few occasions where I found myself still at the office well after midnight, I’d just take a nap on the office sofa and set my phone alarm to get me up before the sales team arrived in the morning.

Partly, it was my drive to put out the best paper we could manage with the resources we had. Partly, it was the scale of my workload, which was far too much for one person. (It was also, let’s be honest, my undiagnosed ADHD.) But, when you believe in what you’re doing, and you believe your bosses when they say there isn’t room in the budget for more salary for the colleagues you already have, much less to bring on more people to spread the load, you just take a deep breath and try to do more.

I didn’t leave journalism the first time because of exhaustion. I left because I couldn’t pay my bills. At my next job, though, which paid better and which was also just a straight 8-to-5, I found myself practically bouncing off the walls with energy. The obvious thought: what could a newsroom accomplish if all its people got the rest they needed?

Much of what we are building at RANGE is emergent — we don't know what we're going to cover until the need presents itself. That’s why what started as one day of reporting at Camp Hope on people preparing to face a heatwave has become six months of concerted focus on our unhoused community. That reporting led us to look as deeply as we can at the entire housing market and housing support continuum, from ongoing growing pains of the Trent shelter to a new report on housing insecurity in Spokane. The amount of time we were spending digging through public meetings to track these stories led us to create our civics newsletter. We need to know about these meetings to cover them, but everyone who cares about these issues deserves to know about them too, so you can show up and make your voice heard. On a programmatic note, this responsive process is also what led us to put the podcast on hiatus: we needed the full power of our small team focused on reporting. (The podcast is coming back, though, we promise.)

And while the coverage is emergent, we built our approach to work into the foundation of RANGE from the moment we got the funding to begin hiring a team.

At the top of that list: rest.

News never stops, but people need to. As a digital publication, RANGE doesn’t have the deadline pressures of a traditional newspaper or TV newscast, so we can always give a story one more day if we need to (we still find ourselves crunching on important stuff we want people to see as soon as possible). We also don’t have the overhead costs of a physical print product or television airwaves, so we can spend a greater portion of our revenue on salaries.

It’s a privilege to do this work, but it’s a privilege that takes an emotional and even physical toll. It warms our heart to see the way Spokane has embraced what we’re trying to do at RANGE, but even warm hearts need time to recharge.

So we’re going to take a break next week and come back ready to kick ass in 2023. We’ll see you then.

As always, if you have questions or feedback about any and all things RANGE, please send me an email.

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