Hardly a day goes by, it seems, without some laid-off or bought-out journalist writing a letter of condolence to himself and his profession. The Columbia Journalism Review and the American Journalism Review have harbored these self-pitying fellows…
A Journalism Review “harboring” laid-off and bought-out journalists by having them reflect “on what went wrong, and where we might go from here?” The idea. The indulgence. (We’re also, by the way, giving harbor to just-starting-out journalists with our “Starting Thoughts” series).
The misery of a laid-off or bought-out journalist isn’t greater than that of a sacked bond trader, a RIF-ed clerk, or a fired autoworker. The only reason we’re so well-informed about journalists’ suffering is they have easy access to a megaphone. The underlying cause of their grief can be traced to the same force that has destroyed other professions and industries: digital technology.
Before we get too weepy about lost journalistic jobs and folded publications, let’s ask how often reporters lamented the decline of other industries, products, and services swamped by [what Wired founder Louis Rosetto in 1993 called a] “digital typhoon.”
No, “the misery of a laid-off or bought-out journalist isn’t greater than that of a sacked bond trader” (I bet they’re “harboring” those “self-pitying fellows” over at Trader Monthly) or anyone else laid off or bought out (if by “misery” we’re talking “income lost,” then the sacked bond trader is indeed far more miserable than the sacked reporter). But isn’t this the same “digital typhoon” that has given most anyone, not just the reporter, “easy access to a megaphone?” The downsized [fill-in-vocation-here] doesn’t have to wait around for a reporter to tell his story, he can tell his own. Not that I agree with Shafer’s intimation that journalism has ignored — at least not any more than we typically do — those who have lost non-media jobs, so focused have we all been on chronicling and worrying over our own pink slips. (Why, the Wall Street Journal has devoted an entire blog to “following eight out-of-work M.B.A.’s as they search for jobs in a post-meltdown world.”)
Yes, let’s not let what Shafer calls “self-pity” lead to loss of perspective or paralysis. But that’s not to say that a reporter wanting to make the last of her series on “How Americans Are Surviving The Economic Downturn” about the experience of losing her own job, for example, is useless navel-gazing or self-indulgence.
And if that reporter then wanted to write something further about her experience or where she might go from here, you know, we’re “harboring…”
Liz Cox Barrett is a freelance writer and graphic designer in Kalispell, Montana. She worked as a newspaper journalist in Denver and Kalispell for 20 years.