Job Security in Journalism

Do prestigious awards like the Pulitzer mean much anymore?

It may, someday but only as a historical document when newspapers go away.

When I read the announcements for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in reporting I wondered. Then I found a compilation of quotes from this year’s winners.

And also this post

It is kind of sad. I wish I was still at the Tribune. I’d have a party with them right now.” — laid-off journalist Paul Giblin, of the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Ariz., who along with Ryan Gabrielson won for local reporting for a series showing how a sheriff’s focus on immigration enforcement endangered investigation of other crimes.

But more telling, if you will, are the words of the newspaper’s publisher and CEO Julie Moreno: “You don’t have to be a huge paper in order to do the kind of work that gets outstanding recognition.”

There was no acknowledgement of regret that Giblin was a casualty of layoffs.

So how can Journalism schools or more accurately the accreditation body not realize that they have to teach self-reliance and business practices for tomorrow’s watchdogs of our democracy? If they are to continue to thrive and do the kind of work that keeps our democracy healthy, they’ll have to be freelancers.

So tomorrow’s journalists may need to know how to bill the hours they work, how to plan their taxes, pay for healthcare and other needs.

Journalism’s accreditation body is so out-of-touch with reality. Perhaps they think that journalism is part of the liberal arts and so should be done for free by people who love it.

Since there are less and less newspapers and print media with large staffs, the story tellers and news gatherers will have to learn to care for themselves first.

Is it because those in the accreditation circles think integrity can be bought if journalists have to take care of themselves first?

I’m not a proponent of the alternative–a bailout by Uncle Sam. It will lead to something like what they have in Russia, Pravda or in Malaysia, Bernama–a government propaganda machine.

One thought on “Job Security in Journalism”

  1. I want to draw a distinction between journalism and newspapers. Newspapers, as a business model, may be “going away.” They are certainly shifting focus. This is largely due to poor business practices and a lack of foresight as much as anything.

    The point is that journalism is the act (or role) of reporting, of story telling, and informing be it through written word or photography or video, whatever. Newspaper is a medium, simply a means of distributing the journalism. It is neither the first nor last medium used for that.

    The problem for journalists is that the economic infrastructure that has been centered on newspapers and traditional distributive media has not been replaced by a new distribution model (eg, the internet). So we don’t know where we’re going to get a paycheck for doing journalism. There are other issues around certification and legitimacy that also have to be resolved; that is, the test of whether a journalist was considered “legitimate” largely revolved around what newspaper he or she worked for.

    Certainly, we’re in a transition period. The ground we walk on is changing. But journalism is not going away. It is simply going to be expressed differently. It is time not for anxiety, but for imagination.

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