Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sheltering Old Media?

I’ve made it clear that I’m pleased I’m no longer a journalist.

Not that journalists don’t do valuable and noble things. They do. For me, other things, ranging from career fatigue to a perceived lack of support, got in the way of valuable and noble. I’m mostly to blame, I admit. But the allure of a journalism career, for me, got in the way of what I wanted to do as a writer. So I quit. I’m still writing as a technical writer, and I like that just fine and find myself doing valuable and noble things in my new career.

So I like to see what the Columbia Journalism Review is doing to encourage folks like me – consumers, but not producers of news – to support the value and nobility that is local, original journalism.

To a point.

First, there’s this.

Watch the video. It’s good. It reminds us all that most of what we see on the web in regards to news is recycled by people who don’t do original reporting of their own.

Then there’s this. Boiled down:

Notice who is doing original reporting and support them through our consumer choices. And, oh, donate to non-profit journalism/reporting outfits.

Ohh-kay. Great. So, support the status quo: Newspapers and local TV. Subscribe to the paper. Buy from the folks who advertise with the paper and with the local news. Gotcha. Doing that. With the exception of the subscription. I get the paper passed on to me. Most days.

But guess what?

For the local original reporting that interests me the most, I’m turning not to local news, but – surprise – to independent journalists – both professional or not – who do original reporting outside the venue of traditional news outlets.

There’s Bizmojo Idaho, a local blog produced by Paul Menser, whose Shoptalk column used to be the first thing I turned to when it appeared in the local paper. There’s also Idaho Falls Projects, another blog that’s done some original reporting. Not necessarily in-depth, muck-raking as the CJR video promotes, but it’s stuff that’s of interest to me.

Then there’s Dan Yurman’s blog on nuclear research and nuclear energy that occasionally hits news that’s of interest to me, locally.

I’ve seen all three of these outlets featured in traditional media reports locally, and know that they’re watched carefully by at least our local TV station for news tips and such.

So maybe the CJR should, in addition to encouraging support of traditional news outlets, encourage readers and consumers of news to seek out local, independent news producers who are doing original reporting outside of traditional news outlets. But that doesn’t fit in with the status quo that the CJR appears to promote: Old media.

Don't listen to me from here on out. I'm a burned-out, lazy former journalist you should not listen to. But journalism, as I see it, is a young person's game. A young, single person. There are plenty of those. But in most media markets, that's about all you're going to get. Becasue of the pay and the demands on time. That's what killed journalism for me. But don't listen to me because I'm lazy and undisciplined as far as young, single journalists go. Or went. Or whatever. I'm bitter too. I need to buy two shopping malls. It's the cart before the horse, see. Local journalism doesn't pay well. It doesn't pay well because the advertising money is drying up. Readers can find news -- regurgitated and original -- elsewhere, produced by parroting mimics or dedicated professionals and amateurs alike who have a passion for what they're reporting. Originally.

I don't know what the solution is. The CJR doesn't know, beyond the blinding obvious, which isn't really working all that much, if you haven't noticed. Clay Shirky doesn't know, and he gets paid to think on these things.


Exploding Unicorn said...

As a former journalist and former young person, I assure you journalism is not a young person's game. It is for those who are full of enthusiasm and exploitability, two qualities that are really independent of age. There are a lot of newspaper reporters out there who have been in the game for 30 years that still put in 20 or 30 hours of unpaid overtime a week covering stories no one cares about or appreciates.

I once told my editor I got into journalism to write, and she laughed at me. Her response was, "You call this writing?" She wasn't insulting me personally; she was merely pointing out that 12 inch stories don't exactly give you a lot of space for self-expression.

Technical writing sounds appealing in that you get to put words on paper and avoid the public. Would you recommend it as a career, one former journalist to another?

Mister Fweem said...

Depends on your temperament. I'm better suited to technical writing because I'm more of an introverted. Mileage may vary. It's not a career you get into for writing, either - I do a lot more soul-satisfying writing outside of work, but not having to work the extra hours or odd hours leaves more time for outside writing.

What think ye of the CJR's recommendations?

Exploding Unicorn said...

I think it's hopeless to prop up print media by clicking on more of their ads. Altruistic traffic won't save them. I hated working at a newspaper, but they are the best institution out there for real reporting. It's sad to see them go.

Mister Fweem said...

I agree with what you say: Altruistic traffic won't save them. Yet I'm stunned that this is the best CRJ and others can come up with.