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This isn’t the job I signed up for!!!!

July 26, 2013 By admin | Write Comment

Career 911Those of you following my Blog posts know that I left a full-time job to care for my mother, until her death from Alzheimer’s disease in 2008, right as the job market took a downward turn. I kept some part-time work from home gigs, but still accumulated debt in order to care for my mother at home.

I had hoped to go back to one of the several jobs I held concurrently over those years. The problem was not lack of current skills and abilities – in my area of specialization the technology is always changing, and I have kept up with new products/formats in journalism and the practice of PR.

But by 2008, several changes converged to affect the publishing business I worked in. Changes in technology made publishing cheaper (except for the cost of paper) and a plethora of content mills have lulled some publishers into thinking good reporting and writing can be had for five cents a word or less. There have always been neophytes and would-be writers who would work for free or close to it. But, if they do this for long, they will starve, and if quality matters to the media audience, their work will be found wanting. Still, some publishers, particularly Internet-based, have adopted the attitude of retail merchants – acting as if there is an endless supply of sales clerks (or writers) grateful to work for low pay under difficult conditions. This attitude has weakened major news operations, and the business of journalism has struggled to turn a profit in this economy.

A recent article by a journalistic colleague, Kellia Ramares-Watson, has outlined the reasons why persons with my particular set of skills are having a difficult time right now. She writes in the Leftist Review that the profit motive has led newspapers in particular to prefer “cheap” to “craft”.  She states “In the money-jobs economy as it operates anywhere in the world, people are expected to ‘earn a living’ at the same time that businesses lay off workers and expect those who remain employed to do the jobs of their colleagues in addition to their own, often for little or no additional pay.”

When ad revenues plummet, the first line item that gets the ax is the freelance budget, then the staff persons who produce the product. The Chicago Sun-Times cut its entire photography staff and plans to use freelance photographers, and reporters who will be expected to take photos and videos as well as report the story.

As a freelance writer, I usually supply photos along with my articles, often for no additional compensation. The photos are rarely as good as they might be if I was focused on reporting the story in pictures.  The visual and spatial thinking required to capture a story in pictures is very different than the verbal and analytical thinking needed to tell the story in words.

Replacing people with technology may make newsgathering cheaper, but will it produce good journalism? I doubt it. As Kellia Ramares-Watson warns, “job applicants will create resumes filled with how many software applications job applicants know, how many devices they can use, and how many years they have spent ‘posting content’ in a multitasking, fast-paced, deadline-driven environment” with little concern for quality.

As Rameres-Watson quipped: “Sorry, Mr. McLuhan, but the medium is not the message unless it is a technology story.”

Ann Wilmer

Follow Ann @pennagal52

CareerToolbox international, LLC

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