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Senior Column: My love-hate relationship with writing

Mason Klemm in Las Vegas.
Photo via Mason Klemm

I’ve always been a numbers guy.

I know it’s hard to believe that someone who studies sports communication can enjoy working with numbers, but it’s true. I was always in advanced math classes, always scored high on standardized math tests and math was even my best section on the ACT. My thinking style is rooted in logic, so naturally, numbers became something I excelled at.

Most of that relationship with numbers stemmed from an infatuation with sports. I loved looking at box scores, analyzing them for trends and outliers and committing them to memory to flex on my friends at school. I watched games every weekend with my dad and I would even build my own leagues, with made-up teams, stats and plays that I acted out in my living room.

With that in mind, I wanted to study sports communication at Bradley, a major famously known for having little to do with numbers. Why did I make this inexplicable decision? Well, because I wanted to write.

Whenever adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d always say a writer. I’ve wanted to write a book since I was 12 years old – and still do – and writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed. I wasn’t the best at it, at least compared to my classmates, but I had such a passion for it that it became one of the things I did in my free time.

So when I got to Bradley, I threw myself in right away. I joined The Scout one of my first days on campus so I could write about sports, not knowing the first thing about how it’s done. I’d never taken a journalism class before, my high school didn’t have a newspaper and I would always cringe watching the videos of athletes chastising reporters for their questions, vowing that would never be me. Still, as a Minnesotan kid with nowhere else to turn, I thought, “Why not?”

I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into.

Led by my tour guide on my first visit to campus, Larry Larson, The Scout sports section didn’t have a ton to offer in the fall of 2020. With COVID-19 putting a pause on Bradley’s athletics, I was reserved to writing one-on-ones my first semester, holed up in my room over 460 miles from anyone I knew.

As restrictions lifted and teams resumed play in the spring, I got my first taste of real sports writing covering the tennis team and, without trying to sound egotistical, I was a natural. The stories were fun, the interviews were smooth and I got positive feedback from Larry and the rest of the editing staff.

I gained so much confidence from those months writing about tennis that I even took on journalism as a minor. This helped me become an even better writer and eventually led to me being asked to be one of the sports editors my junior year. I was hesitant at first, but just like when I first joined the Scout I figured, “Why not?”

With that, the endless days of writing, editing, managing, podcasting, social media posting, communicating and problem solving began. Being an editor was a great experience for me and offered plenty of rewards, but it was also some of the most exhausting times of my life.

After one and a half years as an editor, I decided I didn’t have enough on my plate already and got an internship with WCBU Radio, where I had to write even more stories, interview even more sources and come up with even more headlines. Once again, the experience is great – and the pay is solid – but the time commitment makes doing everything else that much harder.

I got burnt out, and my passion started to waver.

I thought turning my hobby into a career would be a good thing and lead me to feel like I’d never work a day in my life. The truth is, it just made my pastime feel like a chore. I was bogged down by the mountain of articles to write for both jobs, made even worse by the assignments I had to write for my professors in class. Writing no longer felt enjoyable, and I yearned for the times I could just complete a problem set and call it a day.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that writing may not be what I want to do with my life. Four years of nonstop school, internships and extracurriculars have zapped my creative juices dry, yet I still have to write this column, a paper, a case study and a movie script before I can even graduate. The writing never ends.

It especially never ends when you become a journalist. Endless deadlines, interviews, stories and phone calls, all for the small satisfaction of feeling like you made one person more informed. And what do you get in return? A public that despises you and your profession and a president that screams “fake news,” further alienating you from your fellow citizens.

I hate that you have to break the news in order to gain notoriety. I hate how much work you have to do for the miniscule pay you receive. I hate that it’s impossible to get a stable job in an industry that is cutting out seasoned reporters left and right. I hate how lonely journalism can be.

Some days, I wish I did more than just the Scout, such as trying my hand at announcing with Braves Vision or interning with the athletic department like so many of my peers. Some days, I wish I could go back to studying those box scores and major in something like data science, where I could mix my love of sports and numbers into a career in a front office.

Then I remember all that The Scout and sports communication have given me. I got to meet some great people and make some great memories grinding with the hardest-working staff every Thursday night for two years. I got to go to St. Louis for the first time and took in some great basketball on media row at Arch Madness. I got to go to Hollywood and work in one of the largest media markets in the U.S. None of that would’ve been possible if I didn’t tell myself that I wanted to be a writer.

I’m terrified of what’s next, mostly because I have no idea what next is. For now, journalism might need to take a step back and I might try to tap into a different passion, whatever that may be. The writing will always be there whenever I need it.

This column isn’t gonna have a happy ending. Or, maybe it will. I don’t really feel like writing it yet.

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