Thursday, January 14, 2010

I'm a Journalist

The other day, BQ told someone I was a journalist and I felt a little glow of pride. I was associated with those sexy, fedora-and-trenchcoat-wearing icons who got to the root of the issue and exposed the bad guys. Or they resisted temptation and ran the story despite the costs. And their hard shells softened a little as someone showed them the real story is how to slow down and enjoy life.


But the reality, as Justin Kownacki reported, is actually much grittier. And less romantic. Print writing is dying and the latest bright idea, signing up to pay for online content, hasn't proven to be much more successful. (Those last two I woke up to this morning; great way to start the day working for a magazine.) I like Kownacki's commentary:
Your value is perpetually in flux, which makes matters of personal identity — to say nothing of job security — one massive grey area.
and later he writes:
This type of “progress,” like the assembly line and the printing press before it, may cause the future of human employment to seem bleak. But fear not. Sportswriters, journalists and defenders of culture everywhere, take heed: there are still people out there who are willing to pay you for what you do.
The key, though, is to remember how this IS progress in the same way the automotive industry is progessing to a new business model. Unfortuantely for us journalists, these transitions are ugly and stressful. So that makes it difficult to focus on the future and the positive aspects of change. (I’ve been learning just how difficult it is to keep positive in general.) But they are there. And the payoff for moving forward with the change rather than standing firm against it is great, both literally in terms of your paycheck and figuratively in terms of your professional development.

Instead of thinking about what people are NOT interested in (print publications delivered to their doorstep or not-free online content), think about what they ARE interested in, specifically, short, blog-like articles that are available for free online and are updated a few times per day. Newsletters that show up in their inbox in the morning and evening with a few new pieces of content, especially content that leads them to more content they might not have found otherwise. And, as Kownacki said, content that has a unique, fresh voice instead of a stodgy one.

And what is extremely important is that independent journalism persists to continue to expose the bad guys, keep politicians on their toes, and explain the world to everyone else who’s too busy to keep track of te insane amount of information we now have available. Information aggregating systems are a tool journalists can use to do that.

Journalists need to learn how to write for the internet. Language and written communication is changing. I’m figuring out a way to adapt that works for me; let’s work on this together.

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