I guess any given day technically starts the night before. Since I’m unable to do much writing in the daytime, with no less than a dozen emails hitting my box every couple of minutes and me having to respond to notes from journalists and advocates and too many others to count, I tend to go hard on the longer projects when the sun’s down. I’m writing this at 3 am, after putting in five hours editing a feature that we’re running next week. It’s about how the government surveils suspected terrorists and how such efforts are often misguided; nine months into our reporting on the topic, our writer has read several books and white papers, while between his work and that of our edit team we’re probably about 200 hours deep into the project.
After getting my typical four to five hours of sleep, I’ll be up before eight in the morning and downtown by nine. On the way in on the Red Line, I’ll digest a range of local news, from Politico Playbook, to MassLive, to the Boston Globe and, if there’s time, perhaps even a racist Howie Carr screed in the Boston Herald. A lot of the reporting will drive me insane—if I don’t get aggravated by the way a story is reported (its lack of substance), then chances are the substance itself, from political malfeasance to horrific criminal behavior, will spur me to exorcise some anger on Facebook and Twitter. And to pursue another day in a profession that turns hair gray for less compensation than you need to live a decent life around here these days.
First up after I arrive in Downtown Crossing is a quick breakfast with an old source from Somerville. She likes to meet in Boston near her job so that her friends and neighbors won’t see her with a reporter, which is still more common than you might expect despite modern communication tools like text encryption.
After that I have a meeting with a new potential writer who just moved here and covers environmental issues, then I’ll find a coffee shop and post some articles on the Dig website. This isn’t BuzzFeed; we’re a small crew and we all do everything, which reminds me—I have to pick up a few reams of paper en route to the newsroom, plus a cartridge for the laser printer. But not before I have lunch with a woman from a national foundation that supports our work at the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ). She’s always worried that my team is on the verge of burning out, and so I’ll have to try real hard to hide how tired I will be.
Once at the Dig-BINJ office I’ll try to work on next week’s issue, but will likely instead spend roughly an hour responding to missed calls and emails. Then at two o’clock I have two researchers coming to join me for an hours-long dive into hundreds of state purchasing contracts, many of which it appears were not pursued in the most prudent fiscal interests of Mass taxpayers. We’ll then work until it gets dark out, and I will call home to apologize for missing dinner and not being able to help put my kid to bed.
I don’t write columns like this every now and then for people to cry for me. I could have worked in finance or some comparable profession like friends I had back in college, in which case I wouldn’t have to still freelance on top of my 80 hours of regular work every week; but instead I chose to do this, just like everyone who works with us—from our news writers, to our tireless managing editor Mitchell Hansen-Dewar, to section chiefs who spend their lives in theaters, restaurants, and clubs pressing their ears to the cultural concrete. All that considered, I offer an occasional column like this as a reminder that, while content may be everywhere these days, the kind of journalism we do here is different, often more cumbersome and difficult to execute, or at the very least more in the know and edgier than what you get from aggregators. Whether you interpret that as a plea to support our team through BINJ (which it is), as a cue to amplify your local independent media on your personal channels (which it is also), or as something else entirely, if you read this far along and are now going to jump into yet another issue of the Dig, then I guess I mostly wrote this to thank you, dear reader, for being the biggest reason of all that we do what we do.
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF