Some of my most popular blog posts have been written when I'm really, really cross about something. But sometimes, I read something that puts me into such an incandescent rage that I just have to put the keyboard down and walk away. And so it was when I saw this article in The Sunday Times being much discussed on Twitter yesterday.
It wasn't the core message of the article that annoyed me, because that's basically true: this is a rough time to be coming into journalism, with most of the traditional publishers shedding jobs, not creating them. (We have some vacancies, BTW) And there are a lot more journalism graduates emerging than there are traditional media jobs around.
But, as Adam Westbrook, a man the best first name around and some real experience in the new ways of the world, writes the author, Ed Caesar, misses the whole area of entrepreneurial journalism. Adam's article heads off into the world of useful, helpful advice that, if you're about to graduate in journalism, I suggest you go read. I, however, want to take another path. I want to focus on the desperate myopia on display in the original article, the perception of the world through the filter of the national newspapers.
There’s some token allusions to local newspapers in that piece, and one throwaway mention of a trade title. But take those out, and it becomes clear that the article is about nothing but national newspaper journalism. This is all about a particular subset of the ink-stained wretches, without even an acknowledgement that some of the wretches manage to get by without ever getting ink-stained.
Journalism is a very, very broad church – and it was so long before the internet came along to knock down some walls, pop in an extra transept or two, and generally widen the whole place. Radio, TV, newspapers (local and national), consumer magazines, business magazines, niche subscription-only titles. Online news sites. Blogs. And now the whole, growing world of hyperniche and hyperlocal sites.
It takes a particular, narrow, myopic, conservative world to see this as a time of desolation for journalism.If your niche, your comfortable little cranny of publishing is closing up, then yes, things look bleak. They look particularly horrible if you root some of your identity in being part of some exclusive little club of journalists who have “made it” – only to find that club crumbling around your ears. Sure, it’s tough for traditional journalism-derived businesses, and for a particular paradigm of reporting. But for journalism, and journalists, the rules are shifting – and they’re shifting in favour of the individual, the passionate and the skilled. And I can’t help but see that as a good thing.