Tell us your story: Emily Gurnon

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Emily Gurnon, a former courts reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, works for PBS Next Avenue, a Website based at Twin Cities Public TV.

The Minnesota pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists salutes former journalists who have moved on to new adventures.  In this ongoing series, we invite newsies to reflect on their time in the news business.  Our second entry is from Emily Gurnon, who worked as a newspaper reporter for two decades:

After 20 years working as a newspaper reporter, I left my last job in the field two years ago.  I was the courts reporter for the Pioneer Press, and I loved it.  I also hated it.  I loved having a beat, getting to know attorneys and judges and even defendants.  I loved developing that expertise and being known for it.  I loved the challenge of finding a scoop, or finding a new issue that was important but nobody else was reporting on.  I loved bringing a voice to people who didn’t normally have one.

And I loved the challenge of writing every day, the deadlines, the feeling that we newspaper types (or at least most of us) don’t have the luxury of gnashing our teeth over every single line.  Just get the damn thing in the paper.  That’s the goal.

What I didn’t like was the constant pressure, the feeling like we were a bunch of monkeys on an assembly line. The feeling that no matter how hard I worked, there would be more things to cover, more really important issues and cases that I felt it was my duty to get in the paper.

At my new job, I still have some of the positive things.  I now work as an editor and writer for PBS Next Avenue, which is a website for the boomer generation, based at Twin Cities Public TV.  I’m still in journalism, and I still have the opportunity to write about things that matter to me.

What’s more, I now work for an organization that is not run by a hedge fund.  There’s a lot to be said for that.  I actually feel treated well and valued as an employee.  At the Pioneer Press, because of all of the contract give-backs and shortened work weeks and furloughs, I made about the same salary when I left after nine and a half years as I did when I started.  This year, at TPT, I got a raise.  That felt good.

I don’t write as much, but I’ve gotten experience editing other people’s copy, and I’ve learned new digital skills.  So that’s cool.

What do I miss the most?  We have a small team, just 10 people, on the Next Avenue website.  Just a handful of us are writers.  Many of the other staff at TPT are clueless about what we do.  The organization is made up of people in lots of different silos.  There’s no one product we’re all putting out every day.

That was the great thing about the paper, and every other newsroom I’ve worked in.  You’ve got one goal, and everyone has their part in it.  You’re also surrounded by people who are as cranky and cynical and yet idealistic as you are.  And they’re all crazy smart.

So to everybody still fighting that good fight, I know it’s exhausting and I know you’re not getting rich and there’s not a week that goes by when you’re not taking shit from someone.  But what you’re doing matters.  Don’t ever doubt that.  Thanks.

Have a reflection to share?  Send it to the Minnesota SPJ at minnesota.spj@gmail.com

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