The Young and The Burned Out

The “state of the media business these days,” writes the New York Times’s Jeremy W. Peters, is “frantic and fatigued.”

Reports Peters, beneath the headline “In Online Journalism, Burnout Starts Younger:”

Young journalists who once dreamed of trotting the globe in pursuit of a story are instead shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought or be first to report even the smallest nugget of news — anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way.

(And careful Times readers already know “the deleterious impacts” of so much sitting and screen-staring).

How “frantic and fatigued?”

[Politico’s] top editors, who rise as early as 4:30 a.m., expect such volume and speed from their reporters because they believe Politico’s very existence depends, in large part, on how quickly it can tell readers something, anything they did not know.

(Which manages to make “win the morning, win the afternoon” look prudent.)

In Peters’s piece, we hear from three guys driving this premature “burnout:” Gawker Media founder Nick Denton, and Jim VandeHei and John F. Harris, executive editor and editor-in-chief, respectively, of Politico. We hear from a Columbia J-School professor “worry[ing] about the burnout.” And we hear from one Burned Out Young Journalist who once upon a time at Politico says she “sometimes…felt like it was just too much.” Just one. Even as we learn that, for example, “departures at Politico lately have been particularly high, with roughly a dozen reporters leaving in the first half of the year.” (Oh, we also hear from another ex-Politico reporter who implies that she observed others burning out there, including “one girl [who] actually cried.”)

I guess The Young and The Burned Out don’t like to talk about it (particularly, based on this piece, the non-female ones?), but it would have been nice to hear from more of them in a piece about how there are increasing numbers of them.

My colleague, The Audit’s Dean Starkman, is working on a piece for the next issue of CJR “inveighing against the hamster wheel” (as he put it when I hollered over the cubicle wall requesting a few words of summary/preview). Stay tuned.

In the meantime, more food for thought on online journalism and speed from Frederic Filloux (in sum, I think: fine, faster hamsters, but also faster wheels, please.)

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.