Journalists my age and younger (I’ve been in the business since 2005—right around the time digital media emerged as a plausible career option) have never operated under the illusion that a staff job at The New Yorker or a New York Times column was in our future. But nearly a decade into the digital-media revolution, another shift has occurred. It’s not just that journalists understand former “prestige” jobs will be nearly impossible to get. Now we don’t even want them.
Well, Project X may now be called Vox, but the great VC-backed media blitz of 2014 is staffed up and soft-launching, and it looks a lot more like Projects XY. Indeed, it’s impossible not to notice that in the Bitcoin rush to revolutionize journalism, the protagonists are almost exclusively – and increasingly – male and white.
To be sure, the internet has presented journalists with an extraordinary opportunity to remake their own profession. And the rhetoric of the new wave of creativity in journalism is spattered with words that denote transformation. But the new micro-institutions of journalism already bear the hallmarks of the restrictive heritage they abandoned with such glee. At the risk of being the old bat in the back, allow me to quote Faye Dunaway’s character from Network: “Look, all I’m saying is if you’re going to hustle, at least do it right.”
The way I rose in journalism was, well, first, I leapt at the opportunity to do an internship at ABC News, but that could have been anywhere. The more important thing is that once I got there, I always brought ideas to the table. Diane Sawyer met with all the interns at the beginning of the summer and said, if you have ideas, send them to me. So I would go online and look at what was going on in the world and send her my ideas. I emailed her very politely and very gratefully and said, “Thank you so much for meeting with us. Here are five ideas.” She wrote back and said, “Thank you. These don’t really work.” So I tried again and sent other ideas, and after a while some of them started to get on TV! That was pretty cool.
So eventually when I applied for a job at ABC, they all remembered me as the girl who had all these great ideas and got them on TV, you know? I got recognized just for trying to make something out of nothing and putting myself out there and really respectfully and politely writing emails to a lot of people and sending them my ideas.
Lara Setrakian, founder of Syria Deeply, in an excellent interview with Rookie Magazine’s Anaheed Alani. Good reading for all you aspiring journos.
Bonus: Advice & answers to readers from the FJP archives.
Sometime in the past few years, the blog died. In 2014, people will finally notice. Sure, blogs still exist, many of them are excellent, and they will go on existing and being excellent for many years to come. But the function of the blog, the nebulous informational task we all agreed the blog was fulfilling for the past decade, is increasingly being handled by a growing number of disparate media forms that are blog-like but also decidedly not blogs.
Instead of blogging, people are posting to Tumblr, tweeting, pinning things to their board, posting to Reddit, Snapchatting, updating Facebook statuses, Instagramming, and publishing on Medium. In 1997, wired teens created online diaries, and in 2004 the blog was king. Today, teens are about as likely to start a blog (over Instagramming or Snapchatting) as they are to buy a music CD. Blogs are for 40-somethings with kids.
I’m an aspiring journalist. That’s what I want to do with my life. However, I’m not sure where to start. Could you help me? — raetschi
May we direct you to our QA Tag where you’ll find FJP deep thinking on subjects such as:
I hope these links help.
One item perhaps not mentioned in the above though is this: Ask every journalist you know (and even those you don’t) how you can break in, who you might be able to talk to and if, of course, they know of any openings you might be able to pursue.
Have other questions? Ask away. — Michael
The problem with the cutbacks in professional foreign coverage is not just the loss of experience and wisdom. It’s the rise of — and exploitation of — the Replacements, a legion of freelancers, often untrained and too often unsupported. They gravitate to the bang-bang, because that’s what editors and broadcast producers will pay for. And chances are that nobody has their backs.
Bill Keller, It’s the Golden Age of News, NY Times.
Keller points out that despite the fact papers have fewer and fewer experienced correspondents on staff, our access to those who are doing the work is unprecedented (and often free). Cutbacks have led to the rise of freelancers, who often lack the support needed to conduct their work as safely as they ought to be able to. He writes:
Some of them, of course, are tremendously talented, and many prefer freelance work over staff jobs for the freedom to cover what interests them. But for most of them, I suspect, it’s not a choice. Freelance work has long been a way to break into the business of international reporting; nowadays, increasingly, it is the business.
FJP: It’s an important read. I’ve got a friend who, while not a foreign correspondent, has been freelancing in the broadcast industry for years. And while she’s won two Peabody’s for her work, she’s struggled to maintain a livable salary with benefits. The fact that such a dichotomy can exist speaks for itself. —Jihii
In a recent article in India Today, Vinayak Chakravorty argues that a new trend in Bollywood is the featuring of female actresses as journalists—a departure from the old days, when the typical journalist-on-screen set-up was a dramatic, male-dominated hero-vs-villain tale. Today, he points out through a series of examples, the on-screen journalist is most often a woman. Directors interviewed for the piece argue that it’s because the movies are inspired by the real women on journalistic frontlines. They reflect reality. What goes unsaid, however, is that until now, most of these portrayals of women have been fairly fluffy. Chakravorty writes:
What goes unsaid is the idea adds to the glam quotient. While the hero is busy saving the world, he needs an emotional prop. Plus, an account of drama seen through the female eye can be more analytical.
If the war correspondent in Madras Cafe managed to be in sync with the brutal reality the film exposed, she was still playing second fiddle to the hero, as is the case with most such depictions.
The article does point out that this stereotype is slowly beginning to change, or at least, directors are willing to be cognizant of it, and be careful to craft intelligent portrayals of the female journalist, attempting to give them strong roles above and beyond the typical female love interest for an on-screen hero.
In a post on Brown Girl, the South Asian American magazine for young women, Antara Mason appreciates this transformation:
This more realistic view of girls in the workforce is fantastic. In a post-Delhi Rape Case India, this change could not come sooner. We need to see more strong women on screen, not to mention more respect for journalism on screen. Apart from that, the more women are seen being taken professionally and seriously on screen, the more respect they will earn in the real world because of the effect media has on society.
FJP: Here’s a thought. I haven’t seen enough Bollywood journalista films to know how this evolving portrayal of women journalists actually plays out, but simply presenting women in strong and independent leading roles seems like a solution that is driven by the same impulse that created the glam-doll phenomenon in the first place. In my mind, female-journalist-as-heroine is in danger of being just as one-dimensional as female-journalist-as-love-interest, especially if the parameters of heroism are of typical Bollywood-style: dramatic, and based on a very simple definition of power: victory.
If, however, the strength of female journalists is portrayed in a nuanced manner, one that takes into account the realities of being a female journalist in India’s rapidly evolving professional universe, movies can have an incredibly powerful impact. Here’s an example: some weeks ago, the Times published this piece on the evolution of journalism in India and the precarious situations women journalists find themselves in on account of being women in male-centric society. It’s a fear of harassment that is valid, that media organizations need to acknowledge, and women ought to speak about without shame, argues, Ashima Narain, photo editor of National Geographic Traveler. It sounds like Bollywood has a chance to cast light on such realities: the fear, and the courage to speak about it and overcome it, which in turn could re-cast heroism as something more powerful and more nuanced than good-guy (or girl) beating bad-guy.—Jihii
Six years into his rule, Obama’s position can appear confusing, even contradictory. Though the executive retains control of the country’s powerful intelligence service, capable of the extrajudicial execution of the regime’s opponents half a world away, the president’s efforts to govern domestically have been stymied in the legislature by an extremist rump faction of the main opposition party.
Josh Keaton, If It Happened There… the Government Shutdown, Slate.
FJP: First in a series in which American events are described using the tropes and tone normally employed by American media to report on events in other countries.