Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On the power of storytellers

"Those who tell the stories also rule the society."
The journalist in me once believed this to be at least somewhat true. I saw a career in media as a calling, a privilege, a means of helping entire communities see the world around them more clearly. Yup, I've always been an idealist, and I guess I always will be.

The Winnipeg Free Press laid off 7 folks from the newsroom today. This is the second round of cuts there this year, and union officials there fear there's more to come. As is so often the case, journalists seem to pay for the industry's inability to find its way in an Internet/wireless/mobile/social-enabled age. Conventional advertisers drift away from ever thinner product, which hits revenue, which prompts more layoffs, which further thins the product, which...

I still believe in the privilege of those who tell the stories, that the work we do matters on a number of levels. I'm just no longer convinced the model we've been following is the one that'll ensure the survival of conventional media. Indeed, perhaps the notion of a conventional media at all is now something best left to history.

More to come on this. It's too fundamental an issue to ignore. And as I spend my days learning, writing and speaking about ever more capable tools of communication, I've got to believe that we're sitting on a treasure trove of potential. If only we have the courage to break the media decline/layoff/decline cycle.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Update: I spoke about this live this morning with CBC Radio One's Terry MacLeod on Manitoba's Information Radio. Will post a link to the audio if/when it gets posted.


JJ said...

Journalism is a calling, and one not often filled today with folks who understand it. Keep your idealism alive. Best to you.

Tabor said...

Like teaching, writing and painting, it is not always given the value it deserves. It also may make its greatest impact many years later. Commerce is a necessary confusion in the issue.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

My dad was a journalist, Carmi.

I've seen the whole thing happen in my lifetime.

Heck, I even used to have a paper route...do kids still that, these days?

Mark said...

I, too, was a journalist. After a 6-month post as a web programmer ran out, instead of looking in IT again, I went into journalism to follow my passion for writing and photography (I didn't have an innate desire to uncover truths; I just wanted to get paid to write and/or take pictures). I took exactly a 50% cut in pay to do that. I enjoyed it and found that uncovering truths was just as much fun as the rest. Also, daily deadlines were just what my attention span needed.

Finally, it took its toll and I had to get back into IT so we could pay the bills. I did that just a year or so before newspaper really started suffering. I hate to see that, because I feel that there is something to the establishment when it comes to quality reporting. In general, if it costs you a lot of money to publish something, and you are held accountable legally for the things you publish, you pay more attention to quality than if it costs you next to nothing to spew out whatever you want. "You" being figurative, of course.

Magaly Guerrero said...

I think this is going to be an issue for as long as our society hold's on to conventionality's apron. But there isn't only gloom, maybe for a while, but not forever. Look what has been happening with the book publishing industry.

Just some years ago so many laughed at the idea of digital publishing, now there are so many teeth-clenched individuals and organizations wishing they, too, had seen the light earlier.

I hope it's just a thing of time, because the work is indeed getting slim.