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Digital Journalism: So Many Possibilities, So Little Money

May 5, 2010

The more I learn about digital journalism, the more excited I am to be entering the field. I love the creativity offered by multimedia. I love the flexibility offered by working online. I honestly love the freedom of not being tied to one news organization’s newsroom.

My career plans haven’t changed since studying online journalism – that is, they’re still pretty hazy. I know I want to write, and edit, and pursue serious photography and multimedia. I know I want my work to focus on travel, and culture, and international affairs. I definitely plan to research and write non-fiction books eventually, combining my love of history and journalism.

I don’t actually want a traditionally defined career in journalism, which is just as well since the normal journalism career trajectory doesn’t exist anymore. We’re no longer constrained by the old model of spending years working our way up from small newspaper to slightly bigger newspaper to yet bigger newspaper to major city newspaper. While researching my piece on the Huffington Post Investigative Fund for American Journalism Review, one young Fund staffer told me he could have pursued the grind of the old career path – or he could join the Fund and be immediately  doing serious investigative reporting and working alongside some of the best investigative journalists in the country.

Such opportunities are tremendously exciting to me, and I’m not that concerned about finding places to publish my work. Traditional media such as newspapers may be struggling, but the Web is wide open, and people are taking advantage of that fact daily. New start-ups pop up all the time, and they all need content.

The trouble, however, is getting paid a decent wage for this kind of work. I love how the Internet allows everyone to be published. I hate how that has devalued good writing and reporting. I especially hate the expectation that I will work for free or for a ridiculously low sum – that “experience” somehow makes up for adequate compensation, or that I must love journalism so much that I won’t mind the fact that struggling print publications and strapped start-ups will take my stories but won’t be able to pay me. That’s nonsense.

Digital journalism is undoubtedly the future of the industry, and I’ve loved discovering all the different ways to tell stories through multimedia. But despite the constant buzz over business models,  no one yet has any clear idea on how to make it pay – and that strengthens my resolve to avoid a traditional journalism career.

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4 comments

  1. Good points, Karen – particularly that the Internet has devalued journalism to a level that pretty much anyone thinks he or she can do it. I think that, with our newly-learned skills in multimedia, we may be able to show some of those folks that journalism is, actually, quite worthy of a well-paying job. We just need to keep getting better and better at the digital skills to prove it.


  2. It seems that a sad fact of journalism is that it has less to do with writing skills and more to do with multimedia skills. But at the same time – this could be viewed as a modification of reporting skills – which is something that I believe is highly valued but undersold.


  3. Being able to identify the essential characteristics of what you do want to do — write, edit, photograph, travel, study culture — like you do, Karen, probably puts you in just the right place to take full advantage of the hazy future of journalism itself. It seems that we define our own jobs now, attempting to offer something others don’t in order to turn a profit.


  4. I totally agree with you about how online journalism has opened up doors for anyone to get published. The good thing is that people can be discovered through their blogs and Flicker albums.



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