A year ago today I began this blog to chronicle the efforts of a mid-career journalist attempting to continue in the profession outside the newsroom.
But I’ve realized for a few months that “Reinventing a journalism career in the digital age” — while an admittedly catchy subtitle — doesn’t properly describe the course I have been taking.
I’m just one of thousands of journalism and media professionals forced to restart careers in the last year or two, and our ranks are bound to grow. My story isn’t unique as I’ve emerged from the cocoon of the newspaper industry quite unaware what existed in the “outside” world.
And I’ve had a blast venturing far beyond my comfort zone, re-energizing the passions that I thought had been slipping away. Getting outside an institutional way of thinking and learning has been the best thing I could have done. I’ve taken on freelance assignments, received some terrific multimedia training and career counseling at the Poynter Institute, participated in a local news startup and begun another blog that I may be close to monetizing soon.
I’ve been dubbed a blogging “madwoman” and I take this as a compliment. I’m also involved in another sports startup designed to help replace some of the coverage disappearing from newspapers.
But while journalism and media will always be a major focus of what I explore here, lately I’ve been venturing beyond those topics and the work I’ve known all of my adult life. Massive job losses are prompting a major rethinking of careers and journalists are no exception to developing new methods to position themselves. But I believe that those in the so-called “creative” professions have a marvelous opportunity to take advantage of this upheaval.
For many people in mid-career, this is an unnerving and scary prospect, and not how we thought we’d spend the rest of our working lives. I’ve felt this way at times, but mostly I’ve been excited by immersing myself in media, business, technology, law, career, web, democracy and cultural topics as they evolve during the digital age.
The new subtitle of this blog: “Ramblings on the future of media, work and creativity,” is influenced by my post-newsroom experiences and by trusted friends, former colleagues and new acquaintances who’ve helped me stretch old boundaries. I’ve also been reading authors and doers on the cutting edge of what’s transpiring in many of those fields. A partial list (shameless name-dropper alert!): Daniel Pink, Nick Carr, Chris Anderson, Clay Shirky, Lawrence Lessig, Jeff Jarvis, Arianna Huffington and David Weinberger.
I haven’t always agreed with them, and some of them drive me up the wall. But I love to learn from people eager to challenge common assumptions and shake up sacred views. They’ve made me confront my own, and it’s become a valuable exercise during a period of great uncertainty. What we think we know or understand now may be either wrong or outdated within a matter of weeks. We are living on the fly more now than at any time in our lives. Ironically and sadly, journalists haven’t always been able or willing to adapt, often equating the acquisition of new skills to learning a foreign language.
We were trained to be generalists, to handle different kinds of stories across many subjects, and often on tight breaking news deadlines. But somewhere along the way mainstream journalism became too insular, guarded and self-important and lost its vitality in the chokehold of corporate bureaucracy, ethics policies suitable for robots and the gospel of bland “objectivity.” It drained the passion from our work, and from ourselves.
In the past year I’ve begun to unwind and discover new horizons I never contemplated before. I probably know even less than I did a year ago where all this is going to lead.
One of the best bosses I ever had told me, as I made the transition from print to Web journalism, that the only thing that won’t be changing from now on is change. Nothing will be settled, little will stay the same and everything is guaranteed to be torn up and begun anew. Like it or not, just get used to it.
I’d like to think I have.