Warning: I May Be the Mad Hatter. With a Really Long Rant.

4 Apr

Well I have had quite the interesting morning. I’m sitting here, blogging, and now contemplating the very thing that I am doing and its relationship to the ever changing, and yet ever-desired career path of journalism. 

We all hear stories about that one person who had his or her blog funded — paid to write on WordPress or blogger. Whatever the topic is, they get advertisers or other companies interested, and then get paid for their at-home product. This, I always thought, was “the dream” — I would be the exception to the rule if I were paid for my blog. And the normal route was to attempt to freelance or work on an editorial team in some news outlet.

Well today I had an informational interview, and after asking all of the normal questions and maintaining a demeanor that does not put pressure on the interviewee for a job (although who isn’t secretly thinking, “Pick me! Pick me!”), this woman asked me what I am interested in and I promptly responded truthfully: travel, writing and editing.

In a rather harsh tone, she proceeded to tell me why I should get my head out of the clouds: “The field is in the tank,” “I don’t understand why universities keep popping out journalism grads” — when realistically they won’t get jobs. We are competing for the very same (very few) openings against people with more years of experience — who got laid off by major outlets during cutbacks.

My goal of one day being an editor for a magazine or news outlet is (yes, this is a quote) “unrealistic”, and I’d better expand my horizons to marketing, or start looking at ways to get a blog funded.


Get a blog funded? Was this the advice I was being given — stop looking for editorial work and try and get a blog funded? (The other advice was move to marketing or sales. But we’ll just leave that conversation up to your imaginations.)

Which left me wondering — has the exception to the rule changed? Which is now “the dream“?

We are always hearing about how journalism is changing: Edward Murrow’s vocal and facial reliability has now been replaced with a little bird and 140 characters and Zuckerberg’s social product. One of the questions I have been asked in about 90% of the classes I’ve taken is, “In today’s day and age, what is an amateur journalist and what is a professional journalist?” AKA — move over newspapers, we’ve got WordPress! 

I mean, this opens up a whole can of worms about training, ethics and all kinds of things that would take more than just one blog post to address. But the point is there — are we bloggers pushing ourselves into blogging — versus blogging, editing, writing for established news outlets — because of our blogging? (Jedi mind-trick questions.) Micro/macro, even just the fact that Twitter exists means that a lot of people want their news in a faster way than ever before. So much for the inverted triangle — why read a whole piece if you can get the idea in 140 characters? But at this point, is it even a complete reality?

The idea of journalism completely “dying” doesn’t make sense to me because I haven’t experienced journalism without the growth of the Internet (#8, people, #8). I’ve watched a lot of the changes happen — I understand that a lot of twioutlets are cutting jobs and a lot of physical papers aren’t circulating; but in my mind there are opportunities for “journalism” students elsewhere. Some mega-blogs have staffs — The Gothamist, Daily Candy, Eater (I currently intern at a food site, so these are the immediate thoughts), hell some consumer sites have their own blogs that need managing.

Yes, it’s not what it used to be. It’s not this grandiose gatekeeper of information anymore, only talking about what the producers and writers put out. We can now get information from anyone…. anywhere. Today’s outlets have some serious competition.

But the competition for a job, any job, still requires me to somehow make my own brand, in a similar way to branding my blog and then trying to get paid for my own blog.

And there’s a good chance I’m being idealistic. Maybe I’m the Mad Hatter and I’m just sitting here in my room, writing about tea and life, and I’m really just living in some tea party fantasy world. Maybe this woman is right — there is nothing for any of us. But, dream or not, my goal is to be on an editorial staff. And some positions are out there. Getting discouraged and giving up isn’t what I’ve been taught — if there’s a get, you go after it.


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