I worked in crowded, smoke-filled newsrooms, shouting into the telephone over the clatter of a thousand typewriter keys and the incessant braying of editors on deadline.
I loved it, more or less, until it stopped being fun. Soon after that, it stopped altogether.
I recently dredged up some mostly fond memories of my newsroom days when I was invited to speak to a class of college journalism students. I talked about how technology had changed throughout my career, and how it was now changing journalism itself.
The students were polite, but it's never much fun to listen to someone talk about how things were done "in my day," a sure sign that a cranky old man is jabbering.
The one point I tried to make most strongly was to be wary of other old cranks who tell them that journalism is a dying career path.
Journalism today is certainly challenging, but it's also exciting. Blogs, Twitter and other platforms allow an individual to communicate directly with the world without submitting to any publisher's whims and prejudices. This freedom, of course, has a price: You'll have to work much harder than I ever did just to make ends meet.
My pal the journalism professor expressed skepticism rooted in our shared fondness for the paid vacations and free coffee that came with our old newspaper jobs. He wondered: How many young people have the ambition and inventiveness to succeed as journalists without a newsroom support network and the security of a weekly paycheck?
I wondered, too, until Robyn and I got a call from Liana Aghajanian.
Liana identified herself as a writer doing a piece for LA Weekly about Armenian food. She was constructing a Venn diagram illustrating the similarities and differences between Armenians and non-Armenians in how they identify various dishes. Robyn and I were flattered that Liana wanted our opinions, and we did our best to answer her questions.
For me, talking to Liana was even more fun than talking about Armenian food.
Liana's the founder of the online magazine ianyan, an exciting and independent new voice in Armenian-American journalism. Originally from Iran, Liana also writes for a dizzying variety of American and Armenian publications. Her enthusiasm for finding and telling important stories comes through with crystal clarity in her online profile.
Here's a snippet:
"I have reported on intercultural relations and violence between Armenian and Hispanic communities in Los Angeles, unclaimed bodies piling up within L.A County, the effects of the foreclosure crisis on pets as well as numerous culture and society features that span the gamut from covert gay skating in conservative communities to seniors who are reprising the dance movement."
It's also clear that she works to master all the skills necessary in today's technologically advanced world.
"I’m an avid blogger and social media enthusiast and am versed in SEO, social media platforms, WordPress and other blogging software, taxonomy, Content Management Systems as well as Adobe Photoshop, Indesign and basic web design and HTML. I carry the AP Stylebook with me at all times, and am fluent in Armenian. I received a B.A. in journalism from California State University, Northridge and have been toying with the grandiose idea of applying to several graduate programs for a few years due to an unrelenting nostalgia for higher education."
I get tired just reading that. But I'm excited, too. Liana is certainly proving that journalism can still be rewarding as well as vital to both the community and the world -- even when the topic is Armenian food!