In a profession that revolves so heavily around people, it is surprising that journalism has struggled through convergence to online in the same way that we are conditioned to adapt to change in life.
But who or what is to blame?
Over the past decade, a clear division has been made between journalists, those who have got to grips with the ‘online revolution’, and those who have remained loyal to their print roots. In Paul Bradshaw’s Online Journalism Blog, he puts emphasis on the need to recognise and take advantage of these changes in order to keep the business alive. A view which is view largely identified amongst young professionals, “I am young enough to know that change is everything” – a 20-year-old reporter for a national daily newspaper who took part in Francois Nel’s ‘Laid off’ study. Other respondents to the study felt ‘delighted’ to be out of the job that they felt was ‘not the one I had 30 years ago. Now it is a hard slog, mountains of work for poor reward. No time to do the job properly.’
Out of everyone, it has been the readers who have adapted efficiently to the online revolution. It is the majority of readers who have embraced social networking, interactivity, and become citizen journalists themselves. But just because readers have adapted well to online news, does that make the year-on-year decline in newspaper readership acceptable? Have readers forgotten to appreciate where news came from in the first place? And if this is the case, does it even matter to them at all? The readers are not toying with a profession that requires full immersion, engagement and passion. When the job feels rocky, the journalists feel it too.
Passion for the job
Nearly 70% of journalists, who took part in the ‘Laid Off’ study, said they would ‘still have chosen journalism as a career – even if they had known what would happen to the industry’. For most, the profession defined who they were, and the majority felt that journalism was much more than a job for them. Is it because of this that many have struggled to let go of the industry that they grew to know and love? In spite of losing their jobs, they still felt ‘deeply committed’ to journalism. It seems ironic that the passion of a journalist to hold onto a good thing, as they would when gathering news, is what is could potentially be letting the industry down.
As superficial as it sounds, the business simply cannot thrive on passion alone. Nel’s study would not have been carried out if the redundancies in journalism had not been made. I find Paul Bradshaw’s positivity admirable when describing the ‘reduced cost of newsgathering and production’ which seemingly ignores the large scale debt that print publications are faced with. He does however notify that technology has produced time effective, cost reducing ways to publish news. This is of course true, and worlds apart from the working conditions shown in the video below of the guardian just over 50 years ago.
Bradshaw also glazes over all the jobs that have been lost because of role convergences and money, or lack of it. Journalists are expected to be multitasking, multitalented hacks and carry out jobs that would originally be allocated to individual experts. Journalists are now expected to be able to film, edit, write, and design, all with flawless execution, of course.
‘The value of your organisation lies not just within its walls but beyond them too.’ Paul Bradshaw 2009
It was a lot to cover in a first post, and admirable if you’ve made it this far. But what is clear is that these debates really are open to interpretation and most are as yet inconclusive – which is why the revolution is so interesting. No-one knows where it is going, we can only back up our arguments and shout them the loudest – because that means you’re right, right?