In my previous post, I discussed why I moved away from video game journalism after graduating college. But more broadly, I also moved away from journalism in its entirety (although I still do the occasional freelance piece). Actually, this effort in writing and regularly updating my blog is largely an extension of me wanting to continue to publish writing online on my own platform, but there is a reason that I and so many others have moved away from journalism as a legitimate and profitable career.
Coming from a journalism family (my father is a journalist) I always assumed that would also be my path after college. Like an Earnest Hemingway or Hunter S. Thompson, I’d write creatively and also go on assignments for magazines and newspapers, except in this era they’d be digital. But as I neared graduation of college, that path seemed increasingly unlikely. Despite having the credentials, I was mostly only able to land gigs writing ‘viral’ style content after college, and like a virus, these pieces of meme-able and GIF-able bite-sized articles felt like what the new journalism was, at least to me.
It would be one thing if these paid a meaningful amount of money, but in reality I was making more in my brief stint as a security guard than anything that the digital publications were willing to pay at that time. Even then, a standard piece for a mid-level digital publication pays $75, a pittance when you consider the hours of revision and editing that need to be followed.
Teaching and Journalism Have a Lot in Common
Fundamentally, what this represented to me was a shift, not just a cultural one but an economic one. Of the industries to initially be affected by the digital boom and subsequently the economic recession of the late 2000’s, journalism is one of the biggest examples. Like teaching, journalism is quickly becoming an unrepresented profession. The pay does not attract the best minds, but only those who both believe in the kind of work they are doing and can afford to or are willing to take a lower pay rate than most other professions provide at similar levels of experience.
But what is really fundamentally similar about teaching and journalism is that they are both services that the majority of us don’t pay for anymore. While you can send your kids to private schools or subscribe to high-end magazines, the majority of us neither pay for education (at least before college) or for the stories we consume online. This leads to an undervaluing of the profession in general. That’s not to say that we ought to start paying for either service in the near future, as the cultural shift has already occurred, although journalism is definitely suffering greatly in the process. But we need to recognize that failing to do so erodes innovation in both industries and means that on the whole we won’t have the best and brightest taking over the mantle from the aged veterans of teaching and journalism.
There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Noble’ Profession
At the end of the day, we all work because we have to make a living. The current economic realities of our system require us to all work, and the top talent usually goes elsewhere when the money dries up. That’s not to say that the future generations of teachers and journalists will all be mediocre. In fact, I’m sure plenty of great teachers and journalists are still yet to come.
But as long as we look at both as undervalued and condescendingly think of them as ‘noble’ professions, then we won’t make teaching and journalism viable industries for people to go into. And if both the dissemination of information into young minds and into everyday citizens continues to be devalued, then it’s not too long until future generations are unable to see any value in these professions at all.