It’s hard to be a journalist these days. I’m sure if you asked the parent of a college student studying journalism, they would probably tell him or her that it is next to impossible to sustain yourself at it. And that would not be far from the truth. As the dissemination of the written word is changing, the field for journalism is too. In the near future, printed books, movies in theaters and newspapers and magazines, as we know them today, may cease to exist, but, unfortunately, the evolution of the printed word doesn’t seem to be the only colossal battle facing reporters of this generation, or the next.
Today even if you asked the roommate or friend of the kid dreaming of journalism school, their peers might also tell the writer who dreams of telling news from around the world, to consider something else. Why? Because journalists have become the story themselves and it’s not a good one. The storytellers on the front lines have become targets of violence, hunted down, killed, in an effort to stop the news. This is particularly strange as news today so often comes in single sentences, often in a press release created by a publicist, not a newsperson, via text, Twitter, daily blasts and onscreen pop-ups, pretty much as it happens.
This makes much of today’s “news” little more than a voyeuristic opinion told from inside an office or, in many cases, inside someone’s bedroom, churned out by people without any reasoned viewpoint or expertise, people who spew often ill-informed, baseless comments on other peoples carefully planted statements, giving real reporters and the profession they’ve trained for, a bad name.
What will become of news if it is reduced to little more than catty sound bites from stay-at-home bloggers? I imagine it would be a little like listening to sportscasters deconstruct the big game a day after it’s been played — without ever seeing the game itself.
That’s not to say that some commentary doesn’t still have gravitas. Presidential speechwriters give the president a tone and a flare while reporting on the state of the union. There’s Vice News, which places writers right in the center of the action, allowing them to comment in long form in personal documentaries, and then there are political cartoonists, who satirize the day’s events, tilting at windmills and popping the inflated egos of the world’s powerful, ruffling the feathers of the unhinged and the fanatical.
Safety and security are never on the list of reasons why a journalist begins his or her life’s work, but having safety and security taken away — by either evolution or force — might just marginalize the field so much that we will be left with nothing but the Monday-morning quarterbacks.
Personally, I consider writing an art form. But I have children of my own now who are, thankfully, nowhere near old enough to begin picking college majors. When it’s time, will it be wise to push them toward the reporter’s path, mighty as it may be?
Time and evolution will tell.