If you’ve skimmed the media-hive headlines this week, there’s every reason to wonder about your career choice. There’s a ‘sad state of journalism’ from a Huffington Post blogger and Cleveland reporters waiting by the phone to see if they have a job. Even The Onion has declared print — and therefore, good ol’fashioned journalism — dead.
I won’t have any of that. Sure, it’s hard to get a job and I can count myself among a slew of writers still waiting to get paid for longform pieces in start-up publications. But it’s all about transitions. (or so I mumble as I refresh my checking account summary, waiting for deposits). There are reasons to be excited about your work.
The worst, or best depending on where you stand, part about the new landscape is that you can’t be a one-trick pony or unmotivated anymore. You have to be working all day, every day, and for ‘exposure.’ Before you gag a bit, consider this a good thing. Journalists are like musicians in more ways than just their eradicated industry: if you want to make it, you have to play. You might make the top of the charts, or you might just really rock your local scene. It’s easy to sneer at hiring someone because they have super-active Twitter accounts, but it also makes sense. You can engage with news and other newsies all the time, so there’s no reason not to. Unless you’ve lost the drive, in which case, write for brands.
Whether it’s playing around with layouts and reader comments or going all in with video channels, there’s so much new space to be conquered. Right now, it’s all about user-generated content and creating content that can be shared. In six months, it will be something else. I refuse to view traditional news outlets as the only choice; there are lots of really good places for really good content and lots of really good tools to help you do it yourself if you have to. Yesterday, Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger said in a Reddit AMA:
Main thing is to publish. Blog, tweet, write, photograph, tweet, video, code, play around with data – or a combination of all of the above. a) it will keep your journalistic ‘muscle’ in practice. b) if you’re any good, you’ll get noticed. And bear in mind you can do these things at other places than conventional news organisations. Many businesses, NGOs, arts organisations, public bodies, universities, etc are now publishers of extremely high quality stuff. Good places to practise your craft before moving on.
It’s only a sad state of affairs if we want it to be. The more we talk about journalism being alive, the more people — including us — will start to believe it.