Balancing careers in journalism and the military: ‘One makes me better for the other’

by Donyelle Davis

Hostage situations, environmental survival techniques and disaster evacuations are only a few of the ordeals that the U.S. Navy has prepared me for. Despite the training and experiences I have gleaned from my service, however, I was never prepared for balancing two careers.

I credit my military training with preparing me for a lot in life. Most notably, it prepared me for the newsroom — more than any college class or assignment ever could. Boot camp taught me to remain disciplined under stress and to adapt quickly to crisis situations, which came in handy as an entry-level reporter covering breaking news. I was taught to respect the chain of command and to obey the orders of those appointed over me — much like the chain of editors in the structure of the newsroom.

I joined the Navy Reserve more than six years ago. After completing my Chips Quinn internship in the summer of 2012, I began working at my first full-time newspaper position at the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle. I was in the job only six months before full-time active duty finally called.

My reserve commitment usually consists of serving two weekends a month and two weeks a year, but currently I am on an active-duty assignment in Europe providing public affairs support for a naval installation.

Only six months into my new civilian career and I had to put everything on hold. I was finally getting the hang of things. I was more motivated than ever to pursue stories, shoot more video and enhance my photography skills. I was used to the drill weekends that took away my off days and put me on a 12-day-straight working schedule at times. I was even used to the night shift, long hours and day-to-day grind of the newsroom — all of which came to a screeching halt.

Sure, I was aware of what I signed up for, but honestly, you never really think it will be your time to go.

The sudden adjustment has been a little rough, but I hope in hindsight it will be worth it. I believe both of my careers are equally important and I would feel incomplete if I didn’t have both. It is challenging to give my all to both, but I believe it is possible. Whether I’m a reporter with a notebook or a sentry guarding a gate, I believe in the mission and I believe one makes me better for the other.

I hope my experiences now will lead me to become a stronger writer, enhanced storyteller, and more focused overall and capable of completing any task assigned to me. When I do return to the United States and my job, I hope I am able to come back not just as a better sailor but also as a better journalist.

Donyelle Davis is a multimedia journalist for the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle, her Summer 2012 Chips Quinn Scholars internship newsroom. Davis has a master’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University and a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a concentration in history from Louisiana Tech University. She was a reporter, news editor and associate managing editor at The Tech Talk, her undergraduate school newspaper. She was a multimedia reporting intern for The Herald-Times in Bloomington, Ind., in summer 2011 and a digital media-online night editor at The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La., in spring 2012.


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