When I left my job at the Lincoln Journal Star more than a year ago, I figured I’d try my hand at something completely different from what I’ve done for two decades.
Maybe open a shabby chic store – Funky Junk, I’d call it – or do what most journalists do to make better money, go into public relations.
Maybe run for office – I certainly had learned the ropes after covering government and politicians for so long. How liberating would it be to be able to give my opinion for once?
For sure, I’d be a good mom who had warm brownies ready when the kids arrived home from school, and supper bubbling in the Crockpot every night.
Instead, I found that even when given a whole day to plan supper, I still usually started planning about 10 minutes before 6. I found myself spending most of the day reading and blogging and reporting and writing.
Just the other night I made tetrazzini, and nobody ate it.
I started a blog just for fun, mostly – I figured if I didn’t do it right away, in a year nobody would ever be able to find it. I quickly gravitated toward politics and government and one day my husband pointed out that I was basically doing my old job, except for free. In his mind, this did not make good economic sense, so I took freelance writing jobs to support my blogging habit.
I had to tear myself away from blogging to write a freelance story that paid two to three times per hour what I made at the paper. I found myself going to occasional budget meetings or public meetings on roundabouts — not because I was being paid to be there, but because I truly wanted to be there.
So after a year of contemplation and freedom and experimentation and rest, I am returning to what is clearly my passion: journalism. I have accepted a job writing for a nonprofit, online publication called Nebraska Watchdog. Nebraska Watchdog was the first of what has grown to be a national consortium of government watchdog websites funded by donations.
Its mission is to uncover and analyze the actions of state and local government and ensure good government with unbiased news reporting.
“We will investigate and inform the public about waste, fraud, abuse, ethical questions and safety concerns involving the use of taxpayer dollars,” the website says.
I will be stationed in Lincoln and write about about both local and statewide issues, and you can read my stories online.
As newspapers cut back statehouse bureaus and reporters in general, websites like this have stepped into the breach. They are the future.
Since I’ve long been a watchdog reporter who loves to dig, this is a perfect fit. I join longtime Omaha investigative reporter Joe Jordan, who has worked as a political and investigative reporter on TV and radio for 40 years in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska. He has been reporting for Nebraska Watchdog for two years now.
I appreciate all the support and encouragement you’ve given me during the past year, and I hope you will continue with me on this journey at Nebraskawatchdog.org.