What Am I An Expert On Today?
With the amount of information I process on a weekly basis, I wish my brain could operate off memory cards.
One of the biggest challenges of being a reporter is the need to become instant expert on any given subject. The trouble is, you are typically only a momentary expert.
The second I finish and file a story, another is waiting in the wings and its subject matter is almost always completely different from the previous story. It's like wiping a memory card clean only to fill it back up with new material.
Here's an example: I spent much of last week on the phone with economists from across the country while pouring over employment data at the local, state and national level. My goal was to gauge, as accurately as possible, the effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement on U.S. manufacturing jobs. By Friday I could have aced an exam on all the research I'd done.
Fast forward to this week. Now I'm on the phone trying to figure out the New Mexico governor's legislative agenda ahead of the Nov. 6 election. I'm also researching a handful of candidates campaigning for state office who could be critical to the future of the governor's agenda. I'm looking up campaign finance reports, opinion polls and voter records. Totally different ballgame. This Friday, NAFTA will likely be faint memory in my mind.
What's more is a week from now I'll be on the phone trying to hunt down indigenous midwives in rural Mexico. Quite a stretch from New Mexico politics.
This constant change is something I both love and loathe about my job. Being a reporter is almost never boring and I love that I'm constantly learning. But diving into a subject you know little about with an ever-encroaching deadline biting at your heels can be pretty stressful. The payoff when I complete a story successfully is a smug 'I'm-so-smart-I-can-impress-my-friends-at-dinner' feeling.
I just wish that feeling could last longer than a week!