Wick Communications

Is it just too tough?

In Writing on 20 Feb 2015 at 9:30 am

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You may have seen Felix Salmon’s online rant the other day. He’s a well-respected financial journalist and has 150,000 or so followers on Twitter. Some read it as a particularly pessimistic “state of the industry” thing that was sure to depress aspiring journalists.

Well, sure. Maybe. It was sort of that. But there was also a dollop of sweet truth on that unpleasant entrée. It’s true: The profession has been disrupted. It ain’t easy. There is no bona fide career ladder any more, which is something I tell young journalists myself. As Salmon notes, it is also possible to do things on your own, with virtually no experience, things that my generation couldn’t have dreamed of doing back in journalism school.

Journalism has pretty much always been “a dumb career move,” to use Salmon’s words. It has never been a path to riches. Writing truth about the powerful is not likely to win you influential friends nor pad your pocketbook. It has always been hard to “make a decent living at this game,” has he puts it.

Some of us are just gluttons for punishment, I guess. Perhaps we are motivated by something other than treasure.

Interestingly, despite the gloomy prognosis, the journalism schools are full. I participated on a panel at a local high school career day a couple weeks ago and the journalism session were oversubscribed. We had to have three sessions to accommodate interested, talented kids who are growing up in Silicon Valley and presumably in a position to know better.

While newspapers no longer have a monopoly, more people than ever before are reading journalism produced for newspapers. Online readers are able to share our work instantly. We are able to find information and sources in ways that would have left Woodward and Bernstein salivating when they were working on Watergate back in the good ol’ days.

It’s been 50 years since a guy named Bob Dylan penned one of the great anthems for the tumultuous decade to come. The truth is the times have always been changin’ and that change has always been scary to many people in their 40s and 50s and 60s who thought they had the old way all figured out. Take some solace in Dylan’s second verse and remember that the author of these words is as relevant today as he was in 1965. …


Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.


Clay and Bob


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