Allyson Bird, a former reporter who quit her job at The Post and Courier last summer (and subsequently pitched in a few freelance stories for the City Paper), appeared on CNN Sunday morning to talk about why she left the business. Here’s the quick explanation:
I decided to give it up because I felt like I was no longer developing personally or professionally in the job. We were just being asked to do so much with so little to produce more and more every day, and I felt like I was no longer really developing my craft as a writer or just as a journalist.
Bird, who kicked a lot of tail reporting on courts, crime, and breaking news for the P&C, entered the national spotlight in March when she wrote a post on her personal blog titled “Why I Left News.” That post, which covered the harsh realities of dwindling budgets and shrinking staffs in an increasingly demanding internet-first newsroom, became a starting point for heated discussions and somber reflection among reporters — especially after NPR, Irish public radio, and the nonprofit Poynter Institute picked up the story. A photographer at Tulsa World and a reporter at the Dallas Morning News even wrote rebuttals.
These days, Bird works at the fundraising arm of the Medical University of South Carolina, writing things like proposals, newsletters, and donor e-mails. “I still write on a daily basis, and I still get to meet really interesting people, and I still write with a journalistic style,” Bird says when reached by phone. “I still interview people every week and write their stories with a very similar format.”
In her interview with CNN’s Howard Kurtz, she is quick to correct Kurtz and say that it is not a public relations job. For a former reporter, it’s an important distinction, as she explains on her blog:
People in news like to describe a colleague’s departure, especially into a public relations or marketing job, as “going to the dark side.” When word of my resignation traveled through the newsroom, I heard “dark side” references over and over, always with a smile and a wink. I couldn’t help but resent them. But I looked over my cubicle each time and flashed my best Miss America grin instead of the middle finger poised over my keyboard.
I now write for the fundraising arm of a public hospital. Anyone who thinks that’s going to the dark side is delusional. And as my former coworkers ate farewell cake on my last day at the paper, a few of them whispered, “Do they have any other openings over there?”
The grand irony, of course, is that Bird left the news business, wrote something on her personal blog, and has become something of a media celebrity for it. She says the blog was “something that my friends and my mom would read for the most part,” but the day the post went viral, she got so much feedback via e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter that her cell phone overheated and shut down. Bird says most of the feedback has been positive. “I’ve certainly never written anything that’s been responded to more widely,” Bird says.