Monday, March 15, 2010

How is a journalist like a blacksmith?

This weekend I had a long conversation with my dad, during which he told me that unfortunately I picked the wrong career. Journalism is dying. He’d been reading a couple business blogs lately that mentioned the changing face of journalism and the dire situation we are facing.

He told me, “Kate, I see journalism like the blacksmith profession. Sure there are still horse in need of shoes, but they are few and far between.” To him journalists are a diminishing breed, set to be nearly distinct except in some choice parts of the country.

I’ve given this analogy a lot of thought over the last three days and I’ve reached two conclusions. He’s right and he’s dead wrong. (At this point he’ll grin and shake his head at me.)

He’s right: Old-school journalists, the ones who pounded the pavement and worked for weeks to get a big juicy story, are shrinking in numbers. Thanks to the internet, the immediacy of news, free sites, blogs and citizen journalism there isn’t a large demand for strong, in-depth, well-written analysis pieces. These old-school journalists are the blacksmiths of today – few and far between.

He’s dead wrong: New media is unchartered territory. It’s the wild-west of today. And when the Wild West was first being tamed blacksmiths were in high demand, after all those cowboys needed their horses. New journalists, the ones who can adjust to the changing media models and write fast solid copy, are in high demand. Yes, citizen journalism and the idea that anybody and everybody has writing talent is polluting the waters. But those of us traditionally trained bring a concept of ethics, an appreciation for well-written copy and our love for the written world to the world of new media.

So, to his suggestion I become a nurse… I’m thinking more along the lines of pursuing new media more doggedly. Darwin had one solid idea… survival of the fittest is based on those that are best able to adapt to their surroundings. I’m adapting. Journalism is evolving. Blacksmith or not… I’m in it for the long haul because even after 10 years of seeing clips published I still love seeing my name in the byline slot. And for some reason I can write.

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