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One journalist’s ‘Secret’

April 14, 2008

I got an interesting — OK, well really just an, if you want to get technical — response to my first blog on the sorry state of journalism.

Casey Cora, another Wired Journalist, sent along this suggestion to my droning about how the business is “tanking”:

“The scariest part is that most people under the age of, say, 30 years old, don’t really seem to give a shit.”

(You can check out my full blog post and his response here.)

Two thoughts crossed my mind when I read that: (1) “Holy crap! I got a response to one of my blogs from someone I don’t even know!” and (2) “I wonder if he’s right.”

That may sound surprising or even alarming coming from me, a 24-year-old journalist at his first job out of college, but I feel like Casey could have a point and a lot of journalists my age could be thinking the same thing. It’s not that I literally don’t “give a shit” — I wouldn’t be blogging about the subject otherwise — it’s just that I feel really helpless to do anything about the business at large. It’s like being a rookie reserve forward in the NHL.

As a young journalist, I’m well aware that the future of the business is really on my shoulders and those of my peers. But for the time being, I’m a kid with barely any experience working at a twice-weekly paper that circulates to about 18,000 in a relatively obscure corner of the country. I don’t really know what I can do in the greater journalism sense other than write and report well and hope that that leads to a few more ad sales or reader subscriptions.

I’ve done what I can to be proactive — I started a profile on this site in the hope of exchanging ideas with other journalists. I do my best to search the local, regional, national and international papers for ideas. I’ve even screwed around with my writing style to see if I can find new ways to hook readers with the printed word. (Of course, I’ve implemented plenty of traditional writing and reporting tactics, too.)

At the end of the day, though, I’ve maybe caught a few peoples’ eyes and ended up magneted on their ‘fridge, but not much else. That can be a frustrating and soul-sucking thought, especially since this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. That kind of thing could easily stress me out and tear me up.

So here’s the thing: I just don’t care. I can’t.

If I sat around all day thinking about how bad the business — my business — is, I’d go crazy. It’s a useless exercise. Instead, I prefer to use Oprah’s “secret,” in essence, and just behave as if everything will work out. If I were in ad sales, maybe I’d be able to more directly affect the state of the journalism business. As it is, I write, and there’s not much I can do but keep writing and finding new and interesting ways to do so.

So maybe Casey’s right; maybe no one under 30 gives a shit about where journalism is.

On the other hand, maybe they do and they just don’t know what to do about it. I’d argue that’s something that no one over 30 has managed to figure out yet, either.

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