We all know journalism is at a turning point. Financially speaking it’s difficult to keep a newsroom running in a traditional sense and journalists have always been underpaid. Add in the lack of profits these days and you’ll find more and more people leaving the industry. Quite often the people who leave are the people who are established, excellent journalists. But they leave because they’re officially in the zone of being called “grown ups.” You know, people who have kids, a spouse, a house, dogs and/or cats. These are people who have to continue to work towards a consistent salary to keep their family under a roof, clothed and eating. It’s hard to stay in an industry that is increasingly unstable.
I keeping thinking back to Kent Fischer who was at the peak of beat blogging for the Dallas Morning News‘ Dallas ISD Blog – the paper’s beat blog on the city’s public school district. Last year he announced he was leaving because he didn’t feel the newspaper industry was stable enough for his comfort. The site beatblogging.org quoted him saying:
“But the news business no longer provides stability or financial security. If I was young and single and didn’t have two kids under 3 and no mortgage … I’d probably stick around to see how this all ends. But I got all those things and more. So, I’m out…”
Often I talk to people in this industry and we talk about our dreams. It often revolves around the idea that we would work in an untraditional environment where we can try and fail or succeed until we find a way to do good work while making enough money for those shelter, clothing and food needs. But if I was offered a chance to experiment with a new career in an unsure economic environment, I’d probably say no. I have a job that lets me play with technology a bit while working in a traditional news environment AND I can make enough consistent money to pay for most of our core needs. Jumping away from that is scary.
So who gets to play with experimental news environments? Who gets to come up with the greatest and newest ideas and put them into fruition?
It’s those people Kent Fischer talks about who aren’t tied down to responsibilities.
I’ve had a chance to talk to a lot of these people. Most often they are men in their mid to late 20’s who were able to get enough of an investment to launch a small (or big) idea while being able to at least survive with shelter, clothing and some food. Most of these guys are skinny mind you. Either way. They have my dream. They’re brave enough to jump outside the norm and try their hardest to make something work for this industry that we love.
I guess I’m not brave. I can talk a great talk and I’ve tried to take a lot of my ideas into my traditional environment. But if I really walked the walk, wouldn’t I jump and try something new?
I’m not sure.
I know I have the itch to expand into unknown directions. The more I think and try to change my traditional setting, I know more “new” settings need to be created before we all know what is really going to happen to journalism. But I also know my kids need their piano, swimming, baseball, dance, soccer, football… Whatever. And that may keep me away from any of the real industry changes.
Is this fair? Are there solutions? Who can step forward and help big thinkers like me who want to take action, make a difference and make sure I have healthcare for my family? If someone knows, sign me up.
UPDATE: I have heard from a number of current soon-to-graduate students who take this blog as a negative and scary outlook as they head into their career. Please don’t think of it this way. Back when I graduated innovation was me trying to bring a TV newsroom to work with a local newspaper. Now innovation is beyond my wildest imagination. Your imagination is open to do anything and everything. Take this time right out of school to make a change, save the art of journalism in this changing world. Be strong, be brave and have fun.