Enough, for the moment, about how to make a living as a writer. Let’s go back to an even more fundamental question: why do we do this? Why do we put ourselves through the copious pain and disappointment of writing? All writers have their own reasons. Mine are, in no particular order: the fun of doing the research and reporting, the sensual pleasure of finding the clippety-clop of well-crafted sentences and paragraphs, being my own boss, the satisfaction of seeing my words in print, reactions from readers.
But there’s something else. A democracy depends on the public being well informed. How, otherwise, can they make choices? People cannot fully inform themselves, any more than they can (usually) fix their own cars, rewire their own houses, remove their own appendices. They hire mechanics, electricians, and surgeons to do those things, and they hire us to tell them what’s going on in their world. Without getting too misty-eyed about this, ours is a sacred calling; we’re truly irreplaceable.
It’s important to do this job well because if you don’t, you’ll fail, and you’ll be denied the pleasures of reporting and writing for a living. But it’s also important to do this job well because our democracy depends on it. Think of what kind of dumbass we might elect president if we weren’t such an exquisitely well-informed public.