This is my seventh blog post and this will be the second time already that I’ve discussed the ever approaching death of journalism. It’s coming. It’s coming to take your children and leave them to find all of their news on Twitter, Facebook and blogs while monkeys dance and throw their feces at each other on the burned ruins of The New York Times building. Okay. That may be a bit of an exaggeration. I’m not sure how capable monkeys are of choreographing dance numbers. But I stand by the rest.
While the fate of journalism is consistently on my mind as a second-year journalism student, this post is not coming out of the blue. It came from the same place most things do these days: I saw a viral video about it. The video is courtesy of Mizzou grad Marina Shifrin (you can check out her blog here) who decided that she’s had enough with what passes for journalism these days and quit her job. As with any major life career decision, she decided to make her exit via a dope dance video. Please watch and we’ll reconvene further down the page.
If she was as good at making news videos as she is at making “I quit journalism” videos, then the journalism world is losing a goodun. But let’s take a serious look at the point she’s making, because it’s a doozy.
Marina’s story (you can read her blog post where she expands upon her decision here) is incredibly disheartening to those of us hoping to live fulfilling lives as journalists. Especially those of us at the aforementioned “big name journalism school” (Fight Tiger). We are here because we want to prepare ourselves to become excellent journalists. We know journalism is hard. We know that the hours oftentimes suck. We know that we’ll have to work on weekends and holidays. We know that even our best work will be looked at by some people as biased hogwash. We get all that. But we’re willing to put ourselves through all of that because we know that providing good, thoughtful journalism is one of the best services we can provide to our society. We know that not everyone is going to appreciate our hard work. We don’t like it, but we get it. Ideally though, we’d like our boss not to be one of those people. We’d like to think that our industry hasn’t taken someone with “unmatched journalistic talent and writing skills” and reduced them to writing stories about Justin Bieber’s mustache and turned him into someone who would look at one of his writers and tell them to “make deadlines, not art.” I don’t know about my fellow aspiring journalists, but I personally don’t want to think that the end goal of being a journalist is to become a successful businessman. If I wanted to be a businessman, I would go in to accounting like my dad (I love you daddy!). But I don’t want to be a businessman. I want to be a newsman. I want to be a journalist for goodness sakes! When did that become such a crazy notion? When did the idea that people would be interested in good, thoughtful journalism become a fantasy? I guess what I’m trying to say is, when did it all become about money?
I know that’s a stupid question (yes, stupid questions exist). It’s always been about money. Without money, the world doesn’t go round. I get that. But there’s got to be a middle ground. There’s got to be somewhere between writing for the Das Kapital Tribune and producing content for the lowest possible common denominator that will give us their precious click. There’s got to be another way. Do I know what it is? No I do not. Do I think that the journalism world is in a tough place right now? Yes I do. Do I think it’s a crying shame that talented, hard working people like Marina are leaving journalism because of it’s sensationalist, money-centric focus? It pains me beyond words. She says that she’s leaving journalism to make room for the better people, but I’m thinking that’s going to be hard to find. The idea of a “writer trapped in a journalist’s body” should be ludicrous. Journalism should be the top of the mountain for anyone who describes themselves as a writer. Skilled writers shouldn’t have to lower themselves to work as a journalist; they should have to step their game up. Brilliant journalists shouldn’t have to choose between making deadlines and making art. Journalism at its best is art. And therein lies the problem; we rarely see journalism at its best.
At times like these, it’s important to remember something that Marina put very beautifully: “Journalism is the ‘Madonna’ of professions; it will get facelifts until it outlives us all.” Journalism isn’t dying; it’s changing. But changing into what? This is one of the most important times to be a journalist because we have the power to decide where journalism goes from here. Will we be the generation of journalists that lets journalism slip into decay until tabloid journalism completes the move from the checkout aisle to our front stoops or will we the generation that put elevated journalism back to its former glory and returned it to an art form?
Until next time.