Journalism is hemorrhaging some of its top young talent.
Many of the best j-school students forgo a career in the depressing landscape of journalism for law, PR, political science, Web starts up, etc. And more power to them. I’m not going to blow some smoke up your ass about how journalism matters or how this field is so important that’s it’s worth being constantly broke, overworked and serially under appreciated.
Because that would be disingenuous to the reality that is modern journalism. Less and less of what is published is journalism that matters, and the wall between advertising and editorial has been essentially shattered. There are, however, plenty of fields that would be just as — if not more — socially rewarding, and they pay better (like say most non-profits and social work).
Sean Blanda’s post about disgruntled young journalists inspired this post. It’s worth reading, and I encourage him and others to forgo the traditional journalism route if possible. Why not form a start up?
I believe that 2008 will be the beginning of a movement in journalism where graduates will opt to carve their own path rather than be another layoff at a slow adopting newspaper or magazine.
Why not try something different? Yes, there are some good journalism jobs to be had at companies that get it and, no, I’m not close to broke (my skill set is much different than the typical recent grad and so is my job). But that’s not the reality for most j-school grads.
The reality is that there are few good jobs and many newspapers are just hanging on until the next round of layoffs. Editors are in a time-warp, a coma — something — because they are unable to innovate and make journalism that matters. Publishers only care about quarterly profits to the detriment of long-term stability.
A lot of j-bloggers are going to descend on me with all their wrath about blah, blah, blah. But many of them are top editors or educators, pulling down salaries that are completely foreign to today’s journalism graduates. The average j-school student can expect to make around $25,000 at a typical newspaper.
That’s sure worth the $40,000+ in student loans that many journalism graduates have. Not. I have a friend who was making about $10,000 more than that directing a Boys and Girls Club. Not only did he have a decent salary, but he was doing something that mattered deeply to him and his community.
So, do me a favor: if you’re sitting there with your cushy six-figure salary, spare me the lecture about how it’s all worth it and this is a field that matters so much you should sacrifice your own happiness. You don’t know the reality on the ground.
These aren’t your friends who are trying to eek out an existence. The reality is that many recent grads can barely make ends meet, raises are virtually non-existent and they are worked to death.
And benefits? What are those?
That’s exactly why I don’t look down on young journalists who leave the (traditional) field.