Is it better to be demoted for my own sanity, or to stay miserable until I can jump ship?
December 7, 2011 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Should I ask for a demotion? Or keep sucking it up while I look for the next big thing? I'm a newspaper editor who hates her job and would like to be a reporter again.

I became a mid-level editor about two years ago. I enjoy working with reporters as they map out their story plans, and I like editing their work. But that's probably only 20 percent of my time. A lot of my work involves administrative stuff that I'm not good at and don't enjoy - creating budgets, tracking spending, putting on events, coordinating complex projects with multiple people, etc. A depressing amount of my work also involves implementing cost-cutting decisions made by my higher ups -- reducing syndicated content, deciding which features to eliminate, developing plans for filling the paper with fewer people, negotiating cheaper contracts with vendors, etc. Compounding my frustration with the tasks on my plate, I feel constantly undermined and ignored by my boss, who rejects my suggestions and ignores my feedback.

I worked at this newspaper for three years as a reporter, and really liked what I was doing. And we will be hiring a reporter in the new year whose duties will be right in line with the kind of work I'd like to do next in my career. I'm torn about whether to seek that job, which would entail a pay cut and demotion, or whether to try to hold on longer in this gig while I seek work elsewhere.

My mentor - who previously worked at this newspaper - left because of the same frustrations. She says that my next move should be a big leap, and I like that idea. I'm applying to about one reporting job a week at bigger news organizations. I'm also taking classes and laying groundwork for a possible career change. Meanwhile, my current job is killing me, and I'm not sure how much more of this I can take. But I worry that I might not enjoy being a reporter here if I tried it again, because I've been so disheartened by my more recent experiences. How can I decide what direction to go?

I hate being an editor and liked being a reporter. But I'm not sure if I'd like working as a reporter at this place as much as I did before, considering the depressing and disheartening experiences I've had since my promotion. Should I seek a demotion to a better-fit here, or should I suck it up and continue to look for something bigger and better at another paper?
posted by croutonsupafreak to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My journalism keeps telling us to get a few years of experience at a small paper before trying to get hired at a big one. If you want to be a reporter again, it sounds like you now have the qualifications to make a move to a major paper.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:28 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd keep your current job, as disheartening as it sounds, while continuing to apply for reporting jobs at bigger papers or magazines. In the meantime, can you pitch some freelance articles to other papers or magazines or websites, to get your reporting & writing juju going again?
posted by lisa g at 9:43 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know your industry at all, but you might not be considered for the demotion position because of your former mid-level management role. To put it in an extreme manner, you've had a taste of "power," so you'll be harder to "control," etc., especially if the person who fills your current job is someone from the reporter ranks.
posted by resurrexit at 9:52 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing what DoubleLune says. This is the sign that you're ready to be a reporter at a bigger paper. Keep looking, and good luck!
posted by liquado at 10:08 AM on December 7, 2011

it sounds like you now have the qualifications to make a move to a major paper.

In theory, yes, but the industry is in the midst of a great contraction. The OP may have a chance at a position at a paper where a lot of senior reporters and columnists are being shed through buy-outs. OP is already applying frequently, though, so this is a sign that a lot of people are competing for the same jobs -- maybe including some of those people who took buy-outs.

I don't feel there's a really good, positive answer here, because the jobs of a lot of dedicated, passionate, skilled people are being eliminated. Traditionally the advice here would be to expand your skill set and horizons.

There are still a lot of green J-school grads willing to take those reporter jobs, and their salary demands are lesser than someone leaving an editorial job. Wages are flat or falling.

Personally I think the best bet for the OP might be that internal job, if the pay cut isn't too drastic. You'll need to have a real heart-to-heart with your boss about this prospect.

Failing that, a move to a different job or industry might be worth considering. Even there, you're facing a lot of competition these days from English majors who couldn't get their dream job.
posted by dhartung at 11:20 AM on December 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, dhartung - Your answer is the most grounded in my experience of journalism.

I've hired three people in the past couple of years, and many of the applicants for our reporting jobs have been much more experienced than I am, even though we are a relatively small paper. Yes, I might get 40 crap resumes per opening, but I also get at least 5-10 award-winning journalists with decades of experience. I can't even imagine what I'm competing against at large metro papers, but I don't think it's inevitable that they will necessarily jump at my resume when they can pay less to less experienced folks, or hire much more accomplished people if they're willing to pay.

Maybe I should take in in-house job now AND work on my career transition at the same time. With my current gig - 50-60 hours a week, plus emotional exhaustion that takes many more hours to work through - I don't have time for much but work, exercise and sleep. Getting back to 40 hours of work I like would really free me up to explore.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:37 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm in a similar position, although I still mostly like my editing job and there isn't too much admin. Like you, I miss being a reporter, but I don't miss the crappy pay. My goal is to become a reporter at a larger paper. If I were you, I'd keep looking rather than taking the demotion. It would be a lot of the same stories in the same old town. You should start somewhere fresh.
posted by Brodiggitty at 11:38 AM on December 7, 2011

I'm not in your industry seems, though, even if you accept a demotion, you'll still have to deal with some difficult workplace issues @ less pay. I say listen to your mentor.
posted by dovesandstones at 11:38 AM on December 7, 2011

IF it will make you happier go ahead. MY mother in law was senior management at geico. SHe hated it with a passion .She hated it so much it was affecting her health. She went and asked for a demotion. She is getting less pay (15k to be exact) BUT is much much much happier now.

If you think you will be happier then go ahead.
posted by majortom1981 at 12:27 PM on December 7, 2011

Does being a reporter make you happier than having a better salary? If so, do that. If not, don't.

Happiness is more important than money and perceived status. It's more important than anything, really.
posted by Decani at 12:56 PM on December 7, 2011

Are reporters more likely to be laid off where you work than editors? I think you'd really better factor this into your decision. The less power you have, the more easily you're expendable.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:40 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know the answer, I'm afraid, but one thing to bear in mind is that the horrible cost cutting won't go away just because you're a reporter instead of an editor - it's just that your experience of it will change from being the one who wields the axe to being the one who, as a result of the staff cuts, has to work harder, longer hours, turning down more interesting but labour-intensive stories for quick, lite turnarounds.

If I read you right, you've been editing for three years. I'm a reporter for an evening city paper, and things have changed a lot in those three years, so be aware that you may not, in fact, be going back to the same as you had before. You can't step in the same river twice, and all that. YMMV, of course. I sympathise only too well with that "This is Too Much" feeling, and I'd be having the same thoughts as you in your position. Good luck.
posted by penguin pie at 12:26 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh - you moved two years ago, sorry
posted by penguin pie at 12:27 PM on December 8, 2011

« Older Je ne sais pas comment le dire en Kreyol.   |   Want in-person harmonica lessons Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.