Is the optimistic journalist extinct?

By Sonja Nikcevic

The last two years of my life, have been quite defining. I’ve had my first real, 9 to 5, (non-babysitting or temping over the summer) job, I’ve covered my first major multi-sporting event (or at least that is what I call it on my resume), and I’ve come to live in a new (very different, very cold) country. And I’ve also gotten to know quite a lot of journalists. These journalists have come from all over the globe and have covered events ranging from football fields to actual battlefields. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that the majority of these (fellow) journalists have two things in common – they’re some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. They’re also the most cynical.


Now, what you need to keep in mind is that I was thrown into the world of journalism after four idyllic university years (and four high school years before that) in the linguistic and literary haven of language studies. Everybody in that world was confident that they’d write a book, master Chinese or shape the youth of tomorrow.  We knew the difference between conjugation and declination, the five developmental phases of child psychology, and how many lines were in a Shakespearean sonnet. We knew you didn’t. But we didn’t judge. Much. The rose-tinted glasses came off only when a kid we were tutoring or an exam we were taking was difficult.

Then I met journalists, and every one had a specialization and a sore spot; a topic, or a range of topics had reported on so much, that they knew everything about it and everything that was wrong with it. The sports journalist needed less than a minute to tell me everything that was wrong with our national team, our coach and our last game, in any sport you wanted. The political journalist was quick to explain why neither candidate was good enough for the job and how it didn’t really matter who won – the system and its downfalls would stay the same. Those in arts said nobody read books. Those in environment and health said we were killing the planet faster than we were killing ourselves. And I had to stop and rethink whether this world of journalism was really for me.

I did stop and think, long and hard. But there wasn’t much use.  I was once told (warned?) that journalism is like a drug. Once it’s in your system, you’re done, hooked, and can’t imagine life without it. I laughed it off at the time, but that’s exactly how it is. There is absolutely nothing that can match the adrenaline rush of being at a stadium, hearing the crowd roar, and write about the very thing that’s making them roar. That right there is being the center of it all, being important and being passionate about passion.

Am still not sure how the relationship between cynicism and journalists works. Is it a co-dependent love/hate kind of thing or an unavoidable game of cause and effect, question of chicken and egg. I’m still a bit afraid of becoming the biggest critic of the thing that I love, and love to write about so much. But then I stop to think (again) that maybe it’s one of those things like family, you can criticize as much as you want, but if anyone else says one wrong word, you bite their head off without a second thought.

I’m currently more surrounded by journalists than ever, at a journalism conference in my oh so favorite orange-clad, tulip filled little country. I’ve met quite a few optimistic journalists who believe in European integration, Greece and Spain making it out alive, Euro intact and that it won’t rain tomorrow even though we’ve been told that it always rains. And it makes me think that maybe we’re not all extinct.

I’ll end this note on an optimistic note (big surprise), with the words of what I’ve now learned are Kofi Annan’s:

“If you’re an optimist, you’ll die happier.”

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