I shouldn’t have read The Economist’s leader on the “jobs crisis” over lunch yesterday. A few snippets:
“An American who loses his job today has less of a chance of finding another one than at any time since records began half a century ago. . . .
“Morever, many of yesterday’s jobs, from Spanish bricklayer to Wall Street trader, are not coming back. People will have to shift out of old occupations and into new ones. . .
“The bare truth is that the more easily jobs can be destroyed, the more easily new ones can be created.”
All very sobering realities for displaced journalists, who aren’t exactly getting a lot of sympathy for alluding to their plight so frequently. Even in the wake of the closures of newspapers in Denver and Seattle, and the possibilities of more in Tucson and San Francisco right around the corner.
Over coffee this morning, I read media economics expert Robert Picard tell the journalistic set to get over itself in a post entitled “The Overblown Journalism Employment Crisis:”
“If you look at newsrooms you can see the problem. Most journalists in newspapers do everything BUT covering significant news. They spend their time doing celebrity, food, automobile, and entertainment stories. Look around any newsroom, or just the lists of assignments or beats, and you soon come to realize that 20 percent or fewer of the journalists in newsrooms actually produce the kind of news that most people are concerned about losing.”
“Maybe it’s about time that journalists stop whining about their troubles and initiate some internal discussions about how their own newsrooms are structured and operated.”
I don’t dispute that my profession has gotten terribly self-absorbed with the implosion of the newspaper industry, and using the powerful megaphones at its disposal to tell the world about it. But I wonder if Picard realizes how the trenches of a newsroom are organized and commanded.
Hint: It’s not by those whiny workaday journalists, even those few who might have the time to sit around the ol’ newsroom campfire and brainstorm new structures and operations that would most likely be ignored by management.
Lesson here: Refrain from reading such gloomy stuff while eating or drinking.
Mark Potts, aka The Recovering Journalist, offers a useful guide to what to do if you’re laid off. Perhaps the most valuable suggestion goes beyond the obvious and the practical to simply taking a deep breath, relaxing and viewing what might be a traumatic time as an opportunity for something better:
“Don’t freak out. You’re going to get through this. If you can hack it financially, take some time for yourself before plunging into finding a new job. You’ve been through one of life’s most traumatic experiences. If you can get away and take some time off to decompress, do it. It will really help your mental health and ability to move forward. And you may never get a chance again to take a mid-career break like this, for yourself or to spend time with your family.”
A former journalist reading Andrew Sullivan’s blog echoes that refrain:
“If I had stayed at the newspaper, I might be jobless with a rotted-out pension and a house that wasn’t worth its mortgage. Though I am still worried about providing for my child in this dismal economy, I am more confident than ever that I made the right decision when I abandoned my safe career to taste the broader glories of life. Because, as is now so overwhelmingly clear, nothing is ever truly safe.
“If this recession serves as anything, hopefully it will be a reminder that you should never compromise your ambitions in favor of the chimera of financial security. If you are inevitably going to end up in the poorhouse, you might as well get there by chasing the wildest of your dreams.”
Mary Ann Chick Whiteside, who’s taken a newspaper buyout and who also considers herself a recovering journalist, points to yet another survey of journalists like her by yet another journalism professor gauging the attitudes of what he calls the “lost generation of journalists.”
What he may be uncovering might not be the steady drumbeat of despair we’ve been accustomed to accept. Here’s the link if you want to participate.