What Needs to Happen

It’s a scary world for a journalism major. As my graduation day grows closer, I’m starting to grapple with the reality that it may be difficult to make a living. Ideally, I’d like to find a job where I can report without compromising my morals while simultaneously being able to feed and clothe myself (as well as have a little fun. I am only human!)  

It’s a lofty dream, given that we hear day in and day out that the newspaper industry is in decline. Across the board, many of the papers that we hold as so-called bastions of American journalism are laying people off. Does this mean we should be fearful? Maybe, but more importantly it means we should be coming up with new solutions.

Increasingly, more people are turning to independent media for their news. Though they may not be watched massively domestically, Democracy Now! is looked to by much of the world for hard-hitting news and analysis. With the release of the now infamous Mitt Romney 47% video Mother Jones was thrust into the limelight as another reputable independent news source. As the landscape changes, perhaps we should look to organizations like these for answers.

On his Buzzmachine blog, Jeff Jarvis offers some tips to how to be a good entrepreneurial journalist in today’s day and age. It’s worth reading the entire article, but I’d like to shed light on some of the points that stuck out to me.

  1. Jarvis places a strong emphasis on having a marketing strategy. In other words, it’s not enough to just have a brave investigative journalism vision, you need to be able to sell your reporting. This can manifest itself through either corporate or foundational sponsorship or advertising, though these routes often lead to detrimental conflicts of interest. It can also come through reader support, though that’s often not enough and hard to get started on. Or, you can take a hybrid approach, much like Democracy Now which gets foundational funding, donations from viewers, as well as offering incentives for different donation levels.
  2. Jarvis expresses that though “journalistic entrepreneurship” is “not an oxymoron,” we still live in a difficult journalistic environment for indy outlets to survive. He writes:

 But we need an incubator. These businesses need ongoing advice and nurturing, most do. Just during the semester, I quickly learned that each student-entrepreneur and business needed even more individual attention than I’d anticipated; they and their needs were unique. If we are going to get innovation in the news and media businesses, then we need to bring help and resources to the effort. Just as big, old media companies can’t just sit there and think that the future will come to them — when, instead, it’s passing them by — so the industry has to actively support innovation with incubation.    

To achieve a utopian media environment we’re going to need a concerted effort from both independent journalists, and the media establishments. Journalists looking to start indy outlets best read up on their marketing if they hope to succeed, because Jarvis has taught us that a money-making model is key. But equally important is an industry shift, in which we re-allocate resources to support these indy-start ups. Will such a day come? We can only hope.

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