Sunday, November 1, 2009

An Open Letter to the Unemployed Journalist

It's time to think differently about your career. The pressure created by the economic recession, as well as the shift in influence to social networks and online communities has unfairly impacted you.

You’re certainly not alone. Publishers of all types and sizes have stumbled and struggled their way through the past 18 months. For instance, the American Society of News Editors reported that US-based newspapers slashed nearly 6,000 editorial jobs last year.

It does not matter why you chose journalism as your career. Perhaps it was some sort of Woodward and Bernstein inspired calling? Or maybe you were merely a recent graduate with an English degree in search of a stable profession?

What is important now is that you recognize the elimination of your job is most likely permanent. It’s comparable to those industrial laborers whose positions were swept away by globalization and automation.

Do not fret though. Unlike the gangs of unemployed in distressed geographies like Michigan and Indiana, you have career options.

That’s because the demand for content that engages, educates and entertains will continue to grow. Its source (or publisher) is now a corporate entity seeking to cultivate relationships with key constituents through social media channels.

This is a role you are uniquely qualified to fill. Yet, it’s going to take evolved thinking for you to successfully step into this next phase of your career.

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Keep your skills sharp. That’s right…the attributes that defined you as a journalist reside at the core of a social media marketing professional. Be inquisitive. Wade through reams of data to identify an interesting story angle. Write with logic and precision, crafting a defensible position.

2. Understand that you are a contributor to commerce. The lofty principles inherent in a well functioning newsroom do not reflect the realities of revenue and profit. As a corporate social media marketing professional, you must tie your work to measurable benchmarks related to sales and search engine optimization (SEO).

3. Drop the ego and the attitude. All of those PR weenies and corporate talking heads you so despised are now your colleagues…or even your boss. Be yourself, yet understand that you work as part of a team with a requirement for mutual respect and consideration.

Welcome to the world of social media marketing and online promotion, my friend. I hope you’re able to make this career transformation and set out on a path that leads to exciting professional opportunities and rewards.

8 comments:

Karl Capp said...

I understand your piece is written to be thought provoking. Though not a journalist, I have been in this business for three decades. I left tree felling publishing a third of that ago. I saw newspaper publishing would be turned on its head but publishers would be not be pushed in to change while advertising revenue was still increasing. It now has no alternative to embrace an online model or perish. I forecast that the profession of journalism, however, will prevail but with fewer journalists. Online publications will settle for the freemium model and there will be two levels of news; free and higher level paid for. Journalists will not necessarily work purely for one publication anymore and they will have to be more niche, freelance and become more expert in their chosen area. Social media will not cancel out serious and qualified journalism. Lord help us if journalists drop ego attitude, we all need it sometimes as your article also indicates. I enjoyed it. I understand your piece is written to be thought provoking. Though not a journalist, I have been in this business for three decades. I left tree felling publishing a third of that ago. I saw newspaper publishing would be turned on its head but publishers would be not be pushed in to change while advertising revenue was still increasing. It now has no alternative to embrace an online model or perish. I forecast that the profession of journalism, however, will prevail but with fewer journalists. Online publications will settle for the freemium model and there will be two levels of news; free and higher level paid for. Journalists will not necessarily work purely for one publication anymore and they will have to be more niche, freelance and become more expert in their chosen area. Social media will not cancel out serious and qualified journalism. Lord help us if journalists drop ego and attitude, we all need it sometimes as your article also indicates. I enjoyed it.

Angela Lauria said...

Everything old is new again:
There is a shift in the press from objective news to news with a stated bias. This is no different the newspapers of Ben Franklin and Andrew Hamilton on the federalist issue in the late 1700s but now it's at a company-by-company level.

At appassure we think our software is better than Symantec's Backup Exec; and therefore as Chief Marketing Officer, I run a news outlet focused on getting that "biased" message out in a way that looks more like journalism - complete with newsworthiness, research, and a balance of investigative and expository techniques - than marketing/sales (ala Mad Men).

In short, I'm a publisher and I'm hiring journalists. Come one, Come all. The press is not dead and these jobs aren't gone, they are jsut shifting from objective media to social (sponsored) media.

I like the AEJC write up of this shift. The Rise of the New Partisan Press

Amanda Vega said...

hehe, the comments on this will be fun, for sure. It seems there are already some - some good, some that don't make sense, and the like. I like the post. I think it's thoughtful, funny, etc. My only addition (and if I weren't catching a flight today I'd post as a comment on your site) would be that if they were truly rooted in journalism, then shouldn't they already be immersed somewhat in social media? I mean, if you're a writer, then you write - all over the place - in your journal at home, online, for work, etc. Of course, maybe that's not the case. Maybe it's just as baffling as those we see working in huge marketing/ad agencies who don't participate online at all...seems to me you are remiss/lazy in nurturing your own career if you don't continuously teach yourself new stuff. I think the true journalists will be just fine and that the good news will always have room - the industry is simply cleaning house and allowing for those that are the best to survive. I think that's a good thing in all industries - whether it's journalism or not.

Good post Marc!

Robin B said...

Good post Marc. I love working with former journalists. It really adds to what we do in marketing communications. I expanded on this in response to your post at http://newventurecom.com/blog/

Anonymous said...

Marc: Thanks for your post. After processing it, I'd say ... Once a weenie, always a weenie. Next time, try expressing an original thought.

Marc Hausman said...

Hmmm...referred to as "unoriginal" and a "weenie" by someone who elects to post as anonymous.

JULIAN BRAY UK speaker/moderator said...

Unemployed or unemployable?

This side of the pond (in the UK) we like to think we taught the new world (USA)a thing or two about journalism; Charles Dickens,Samuel Peypes, George Orwell, Haslett and so on. All great PR men! There has always been co-operation and mutual respect between real journalists and PR/ Marketing people as if you don't know how the other half functions you as a journalist are already dead in the water. Toffee nosed journalists who look down or despise PR people are just plain stupid when many Pr people arew the gatekeepers to a mnountian of stories not just product placement. One such Pr man from detroit at a conference in san Diego let it slip that GM were to dispose of the Uk Plant (Vauxhall) in Luton and that was in 1998! No one in the UK knew at the time, funny how things turn out.

I blame the so called media schools and prefessors who probably use failed journalists and those with a heavy chip on their shoulders to teach the next generation about the 'meeeja' Journlsism is an craft skill not a product of academia and before computing could be done from a horizontal position after a very long alcoholic Fleet Street lunch knowing full well a bank of expert telephone copytakers would sprinkle a few punctuation marks and paragraphs into the piece. The cries that the dead tree media is finished is rubbish of course as its just a matter of evolution at one timke we had town criers who delivered news in the town square ringing a bell and reading from a scroll.


Julian Bray MCIPR and NUJ

BRAYS DUCKHOUSE BLOG: http://tinyurl.com/pknlxn

Cyrus said...

What's missing in all these discussions is the need for a business model to support whatever new model emerges. Honestly, we don't have it yet and without it, you're not going to have the type of valuable, high-level journalism that this country has benefited from since its founding.