Jobs Beyond Traditional Journalism
It was 2005 when I arrived on the campus of New York University for the first semester of grad school. I had lofty aspirations and stars in my eyes. I was in the Big Apple! The city was my oyster and I was ready to work my butt off and be published by the likes of The New York Times or New York Magazine. I was ready to be molded into a serious print journalist. What I got instead were some lessons in blogging and online media.
What the heck was a blog? I had no idea. And why was I paying ridiculous amounts of tuition to learn how to blog? I felt insulted at first. THIS was journalism? How could that be? It wasn’t tangible! It was just words on a computer! I was in for a rude awakening.
I had no idea that the world I was going to be graduating into was going to be one where magazines and newspapers closed up shop every other day.
I ended up working part time as an online reporter during my grad school tenure. And I loved it. What I thought was the journalism industry was much, much narrower than the actual reality. I thought I was going to school to learn how to write for a newspaper or magazine. I did learn how to do that, but I also took online journalism courses and got the opportunity to write some white papers, as well as copy for websites. I had no idea that the world I was going to be graduating into was going to be one where magazines and newspapers closed up shop every other day.
Just last week, news broke in my home state that five weekly papers were going out of business. Some of these papers had been in existence for over 100 years, and the loss to these communities is devastating. These small weekly papers frequently covered stories and events that the bigger papers in the state did not. It was sad news, but, unfortunately, not surprising.
LinkedIn and the Council of Economic Advisers recently released a graphic of the fastest-growing and fastest-shrinking industries since 2007. The fastest growing industries? Renewables and Environment. The fastest-shrinking? Newspapers.
Why is this happening?
Well, periodicals haven’t figured out a way to capitalize by being online. You can get the news from anywhere—so newspapers feel the need to compete with each other and end up putting up all of their content on their website free of charge to anyone who feels like stopping by and taking a look.
Online advertising is still relatively new, and advertisers have yet to really put a lot of their money in this area of media. While online advertising is gaining traction, newspapers are losing subscribers left and right. I myself read the newspaper online.
I know handfuls of people who have lost their jobs because of downsizing at a newspaper. Heck, I lost my job twice in the span of 6 weeks at a newspaper! When the five small weeklies closed in my state, 56 people lost their jobs overnight. They got their pink slips in an email from the publisher.
This doesn’t mean that you plucky young journalists out there will never find a job. It just means you need to know how to do more than your predecessors. Learn how to take a decent photo. Learn rudimentary HTML. Know your way around WordPress and figure out how to use Photoshop and InDesign. Have skills besides your writing chops.
And look outside of traditional journalism jobs. The good news in the LinkedIn/Council of Economic Advisers report is that the Internet and Online Publishing industries are also among the fastest growing industries. There are a lot of terrible writers out there with blogs—use your blog to put your best foot forward. It can be a great piece to put on your resume.
Here are some other ways you can use your writing acumen and earn a paycheck:
As a copywriter, you create everything from brochures to sales copy for magazines to web copy. Businesses out there need wordsmiths like you to create keyword rich paragraphs for their websites and retailers need people like you to effortlessly describe their wares for their catalogs. You might not always get to work on the most thrilling and tantalizing projects, but hey—it’s work!
Businesses big and small use newsletters to reach their clients. These marketing materials are usually templated, and are sent out on a regular basis. Who do you think writes them? People like you. This can be a very lucrative business if you hook up with a major retailer or business who frequently uses email newsletters to market themselves. I knew a guy who made a great living by just writing newsletters for WalMart.
As our world becomes more technologically advanced, the need for people who know how to “dumb down” jargon so the masses can understand grows. Writers with a background in such subjects as engineering, chemistry, robotics, computers, finance, and consumer electronics can have a field day describing technical information for the everyday person.
Every industry has a trade publication dedicated to it. From your hairdresser and dentist to the person who cleans your furnace can read about their industry. You might not think that Risk Management is all that exciting, but you have a huge audience out there that is looking for information to read. Become an expert in one industry, or a few. Your mom might not ever see your story in print, but thousands of other people, who really care about the topic, will.