I am and (hopefully) always will be an idealist. If there was to be a writer for my world, it would be Aaron Sorkin. With his idealist approach to any and all topics, he has created incredible television that will endure for decades, no matter how many Real Housewives or Kardashians are thrown at people.
While it’s easy to watch brain-numbing “reality” TV, people will always be driven by hope, motivated by passion, and looking for something mightier than what is achievable in ordinary life. We, the media, can so often provide them with that.
I come from a family of doctors, and it had been settled sometime before my fifth birthday that I would become one too. I studied from the moment I could read – I was literally given books on medicine to read, prepare and become the best. I was the biggest fan of biology in school, and I was already thinking about the lives I was going to save by becoming a surgeon.
Still, throughout the years, something like a faint voice was starting to manifest itself. First, I would have random people telling me their life stories anywhere from the train to the local coffee shop. Then, writing was suddenly very easy to me and it felt like the most rewarding use of my time.
My family, of course, thought I needed a ‘serious’ career. Therefore, while I got a job as an amateur journalist at the age of 16, I continued to prepare for my preordained career. I would study chemistry, biology and anatomy intensely while having the TV on and daydreaming about what could be.
Then, as fate would have it, I was unable to take the exam for med school due to unexpected personal circumstances. For the first time in my life, I found myself without a plan, close to derailing my future and letting everyone in my family down. I put my head down and went to study economics for a year, thinking all should not be wasted, planning to get everything back on track the next year. Little did I know how useful this would prove to be.
Over the next 12 months, everything changed. I knew I couldn’t be a doctor (although to this day I still sometimes dream about it). Over the summer, I did an internship at a ministry, translating official business documents from English to Romanian, then got a job as a babysitter. I was taking care of a baby when my mom called and said she’d just heard on TV that journalism studies was the most sought-after course in Romania at the time.
Competition was fierce and kids fresh out of high school were lining up by the thousands to sign up for the brutal exam. ‘You should apply,’ she said.
Why? Maybe she liked the idea of a challenge for me. Or maybe she had finally realised what my path was truly meant to be. I’ve never asked her.
I hadn’t studied for journalism, I didn’t even know what the exam was. Still, it took me about one hour to print the documents I needed and decided to give it a try. I took the baby in my care with me and went to sign up. The system was archaic, to say the least. Literally hundreds of people were queueing in 35-degree weather (full-blown summer in Romania). It was unbearable. When I saw this I realised there was no way I could stand in line with the baby, in that heat, for hours on end.
Then someone said: ‘Oh, look at the young mother wanting to become a journalist, let her go in front with the baby!’
Needless to say, I didn’t correct them. I took the exam without so much as an hour of study. I passed. I got a full-time job at Romania’s largest economic daily in my first year, although they were looking for third- or fourth-year students. I got the position because they liked how I translated an article from the FT (thanks to my previously-mentioned internship and my economic studies). By my fourth year, I had been appointed Deputy Editor of a national newspaper. I went from an editorial board meeting straight into my dissertation.
I tell you this not to say ‘look at me!’, but in an effort to explain that for me, this is a vocation – a calling. When I draw the line, I see all those crossroads when seemingly small things pushed me towards what I was always meant to do.
And because of that, I have no choice but to dream of all the amazing things we, the media, can do with this power we have been given. As I’ve said before, my mantra is that we are here to serve the people.
We are not click-bait.
We are not a front for advertising.
We are not here to scare you, to tell you the world is flat or who to blame and who to hate.
We are nothing but the facts, to the best of our knowledge and to the best of our critical faculties.
It is our responsibility to make sure those who give us their time and attention do not do so in vain. I have come a really long and sometimes painful way to be here today and tell you that this old profession is now breathing new life. We are here to change the world.
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