Comfort is the enemy of growth. Get uncomfortable.
Three days into my on-the-job-training (OJT) internship, I was already knee deep in unending anxiety [What if I mess up the coverage and miss out on a probable scoop?], ceaseless self-doubt [Did I get the numbers right on the City Mayor’s Office’s balance?], and misplaced self-criticism [Why was I complimented? I didn’t like the article I wrote.]—when I saw a post one of my best friends shared on his Facebook timeline. The post capped its message with the excerpt above and it couldn’t have summed up my one-month internship at Digital News Exchange (DNX) better.
Nearly a year has gone by since the last time I did anything related to journalism after quitting my post at The Spectrum, University of St. La Salle’s student media corps, last August—pausing my decade-old gig as a campus journalist. I have been very out of practice and albeit rusty in my journalistic writing so saying I was nervous about my journalism-centered internship at the first digital media outlet in Bacolod City is an understatement [let alone that campus press is just the littlest league compared to journalism in the public arena].
On the very first day of my internship, I was deployed to the field to observe how things were done—I helped out as best I could, taking note of things we learned from the bunch of interviews we did. I was feeling pretty good because I was able to contribute to the outputs that day, but my throat plummeted to my stomach when I was assigned my first feature article for DNX. I had to write a feature story on what we discovered while interviewing people about the eventual mass housing project in Bacolod City—in two hours, on my phone. Feature stories had always been my weakness, despite my roots as a literary writer. All the features I have written were fleshed out in either three or five days tops. What worried me more was that I am not used to writing a full-blown article on my phone; I need a laptop—the font set to Times New Roman, with a size of 12, a spacing of 1.5 inch, and justified. Yet, I did not have the luxury of time to overthink the article nor open and master the laptops available at the office. I was unprepared and stunned but I went with it anyway—shakily, but I went with it nevertheless. I merely blinked and the two hours were up. Thankfully, I was able to submit on time, not the best of my work but still palatable enough to publish, sweaty hands and all. It was the first of many articles I had to write on the go, until eventually I got the hang of things, leading me to write my final article in under two hours [and yes, it was also fittingly a feature article].
As I was settling in on my first week, Sir Julius, DNX’s executive editor, told me that I’d be doing video reports the following week—something I was genuinely looking forward to. Yet, on the last day of my first week of OJT, I was already asked to do a video report with a stand-upper [I had to shoot a video of myself speaking the intro and extro of the report into the mic]. Sir Julius’ words echoed in my head as I felt the room slightly spinning. Nonetheless, I said yes. I was with the entire field team [there were four of us]. Before leaving the office, I already had a script outlined with the intro and extro already written and approved. I’ve binged DNX’s video reports and taken note of how their reporters write their scripts but I could not help feel as if the earth beneath me would open up and swallow me whole at any second. The Tiempo Muerto heat pricked my skin yet my palms were stone cold as I gripped the mic in hopes of calming myself. Being in front of the camera always leaves me all self-conscious and shy [I’m more of a behind-the-scenes body] but I went for it under the sun and the heat of high noon. It was my first time interviewing people on my own, writing a Hiligaynon video report script, and a kicker text to go along with the video and though it was very obvious that I was a rookie, I eventually preferred video report assignments out of all the tasks I was given.
The following weeks, I was separated from the team I’ve always tagged along with. I had to angle my video reports on my own, scour Bacolod City for interviewees, go to police stations and talk to police officers, interview people on my own for segments, and even cover events on my own—holding the camera and writing the report at the same time. I was thrusted into one assignment to another; each one with more responsibility than the one before. Yet, each one felt more thrilling rather than petrifying than the last. Just like the discipline of journalism itself, I was disturbed in a manner that ignited whatever embers were left in my sputtering fervor for journalism.
Every day in the newsroom meeting, I am reminded that despite being but one of the many fields of communication, the discipline of the press does not offer much room for one to be comfortable. Even veteran journalists like DNX’s editors have to face the unease of mastering journalism as multimedia—dealing with media and information clutter from bloggers and vloggers, stiff competition from other media outlets, and an often-righteous viewing public hiding behind aliases and screens. Discomfort, in this sense, should always be welcomed for it is the only way we can grow and do better than our last work.
The past month started out as an uncomfy experience for me yet it was the very same discomfort that allowed me to break free from the white-walled box of campus journalism I’ve long outgrown and into the bigger arena of real-life journalism where my work holds water and ripples towards those around me. I hope I don’t get too comfortable with this thrilling sensation of chasing down a story soon, for instead of an end, I simply believe that it’s the beginning of one daunting journey. After all, it’s never “MASSCOMMportable” for people in the fourth estate.