1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

But no, really, what's the future of this profession?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Bunk_Moreland, Feb 11, 2016.

  1. Bunk_Moreland

    Bunk_Moreland New Member

    This will be a long one, so apologies in advance.

    I'm fortunate enough to have a pretty good job in this business, doing something I'd wanted to do since I was a kid. I make pretty decent money (for journalism) – I'm not getting rich, certainly, but can live comfortably and save a decent amount every month – and I have relatively great job security in that my place would probably go out of business before it stopped covering my beat.

    And yet … I don't know. I often wonder what the hell I'm doing with myself.

    Not because I don't like what I do. Some days I even manage to love it. And not even because of the added responsibilities of the job and the never-ending 24/7 news cycle and demands like video, constant blogging, etc. I've adapted to change and understand the new media environment.

    But I wonder what I'm doing, most of all, because of this omnipresent feeling of dread that this is just a dead-end career path in the long run, and that no matter how good I might be and how (relatively) secure I am, there's little hope of advancement to bigger and better things. Like, say, becoming a columnist or a national writer/reporter or a reporter in a bigger market with a higher salary (as if even those positions are stable these days).

    (I also recognize that a lot of people out there would love to be in my position. Those who haven't been as lucky in breaking out of the smaller paper, or those who have lost their jobs in recent years. There's a lot of people in much more difficult circumstances than mine, and so I feel a bit weird about having these thoughts. And yet they persist, mainly because sports journalism is so upside down.)

    The Big Lead story on what's going on at CBSSports.com provided another moment of, “What the hell is happening to this profession?” I didn't need that story to point out the shortcomings and direction of CBSSports.com – those things have been clear – but the story crystallized things for me: that here was this site that not long ago was nationally respected and doing good work but now is completely content (sadly, given they still have some great people working there) with clickbait.

    Ditto with The Sporting News, which apparently has laid off Matt Hayes, one of the most respected and knowledgeable college football writers in the country. The demise of TSN has been well chronicled but laying off Hayes provided another moment of “what am I doing with my life?” More experienced people who make more money get laid off in all professions, I'm guessing, but they seem especially at risk in this one in this day and age. It's like there's no value whatsoever in having established a decades' long track record of being a good reporter and writer.

    To get to the point: To me it really seems like this has become a dead-end profession for anyone who doesn't have incredible, unreal talent (like a Wright Thompson, Dan Wetzel, etc.).

    Am I wrong on that? I thought it'd be worthwhile starting a discussion about where this “profession,” if it can be called that anymore, is really headed. Some questions of interest:

    --what will be the most stable jobs five, 10, 15, 25 years from now? To me, the answer to that question would be jobs like high school sports reporters at smaller dailies, the college beat jobs at the main paper in college towns, the pro beat jobs at the main outlet in the city of the team. I'd like to think those jobs will remain. But sometimes I don't even know if those positions have long-term stability.
    --what will be the path to landing the best jobs? Will it involve becoming something of an Internet star – like a Clay Travis? Will it involve having the most scorching of takes – like a Skip Bayless? Where will old-fashioned great reporting and writing fit in?
    --and speaking of old-fashioned great reporting and writing – what will be the real value of those things and which outlets will value it and will be willing to pay well for it?
    --and what will it mean to be well paid? None of us got into this to get rich, I'm guessing, but I did believe that it was possible to do great work, move up the chain and make a very good living in sports journalism. Now I'm a lot more skeptical. It's surprising how fast salaries are falling and how they're not really growing anywhere, either.
    --among jobs that stick around, what will those jobs consist of? Will the focus be on real reporting and depth or generating clicks and getting eyeballs on the content any way possible?
    --what about national jobs? Will sites like Yahoo/ESPN.com/SI – and papers like the Times and Post – still be committed to doing “real” work? Will there still be a place for high-end, high-salaried reporters?
    --the general sports columnist at a newspaper, to me, seems like one of the most at-risk positions in terms of long-term stability. Will they still be around in 20 years?

    If I didn't mostly love what I do and didn't still believe in it (for better or for worse) I would have taken steps a while ago to make a career change. I think I'm starting to realize, though, that I love the idea of what I do -- the romantic notion of being a journalist in a bygone era. More and more I wonder if it's just completely irresponsible to remain in this field. It doesn't appear like there's much growth. Salaries are going down (I worked a pro beat at a major outlet in a major market for a while and made not all that much more than I did covering high schools -- which was more acceptable at the time because I was younger and interested in the opportunity) and there doesn't appear to be any solid path to high-end success in this business.

    Thoughts welcome.
  2. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    Yes, its a dead end and time to get out. It sounds like you know that already. It sucks but that's the reality. I'm in a very similar spot. And it isn't easy to come to grips with after almost two decades in the business.
  3. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    It all depends on perspective. And that can, and does, change over time.

    What you consider to be success is what matters. It sounds like your idea of it, at least right now, involves promoting to a columnist position in the biggest outlet/stage that there is.

    But that's kind of a pat answer/viewpoint. Think about it. Is that really what you want to do and know you would love? Maybe it is. But my point is that, sometimes, you have an idea in your head of what would be good/successful because that's just...what you do and how you think of success/advancement in that field.

    There are other ways, though, to have and enjoy success, and to feel that you are being successful and can be happy with what you're doing, and can know/feel confident that you're doing well and doing the right thing for you to be doing at this time.
    TexasVet likes this.
  4. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    I'm a broken record on saying a journalist's skills translate very well to other industries ... but I will add that now is an especially hot time for those skills in the marketplace. Companies, universities and nonprofits need writers and can't find them.

    The first job might involve freelancing, part-time or a pay cut. You'll make up the difference quickly.
  5. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    I now look forward to the future of journalism, mainly because it won't include me. #wheresthedoor
  6. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I do believe this is a shaking-out process. The demand for information is as strong as ever.

    But where will the jobs be? Covering sports for a pro team or college? Local news websites? Print resurgence? Blogs?

    Opportunities abound. Some are great. Some are wish-and-a-prayer. Not one is as solid seeming as a job with a newspaper was 15 years ago.

    Otherwise, what LTL said. Reporters, editors, designers for newspapers have loads of skills that translate to many fields.
  7. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    To piggyback on this a bit ... when the recession finally started letting up, in 2011 or 2012, I thought several of my more talented coworkers, still in their late 20s or early 30s, would finally have a chance to move up in this business. Instead, all but one of them moved out and found non-journalism jobs. And EVERYONE I know who's left the business in the past four years hasn't looked back one bit.

    A couple of these folks were extremely talented and smart reporters, good writers — but they didn't see a future in it. We've been trading down at our shop ever since, and it saddens me.

    As for myself ... I switched from writing to the copy desk when we had children, so at least I would have regular hours. Now both kids are in high school, and when they graduate and move on as young adults, it will be a chance for me to change, too.

    Page design and even copy editing skills are valued far less in today's world of journalism. There will always be a role for reporters/"content providers," but the filtering mechanism is becoming too expensive and obsolete.
  8. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    The newspaper model is not going to improve. If you are going to stay prepare to slap you byline on at least 7 on-line "stories" (photo galleries, lists, links etc) a day in addition to writing something for the paper. And even then it's only a matter of time. It doesn't matter what the medium, (TV, radio, print) all journalism is a temp gig but is a great way to lead you to something better.
  9. bevo

    bevo Member

    As long as you have writing skills, you shouldn't have a problem finding something outside of journalism. I've had numerous interviews, but haven't been able to seal the deal on another job because I've been on the copy desk for the last 15 years, which is not something that is valued when most just want content written for websites, PR, communications stuff.
  10. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    Yeah, it sucks. I'm a desker as well, so I have no real clips, but I know I'm a better writer than some of the folks I regularly edit.
  11. DeskMonkey1

    DeskMonkey1 Active Member

    I feel I could have written that. No clips except pdfs of page layouts. My sports writing clips are nearly 15 years old and I have maybe 2 news clips since then (and one I don't have a copy of).

    I get interviews but never can seal the deal. I'd still like to be a sports editor some day but I don't hold my breath.
  12. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    I actually don't think writing skills translate that well to other work -- not outside of PR, marketing, maybe technical writing...in other words, just the usual suspects. Sure, they should. But they don't. That's why it's often difficult for journalists to get jobs outside of journalism, and why it sometimes takes quite a long time to happen. It is also largely why, once I was out of the journalism industry, and eventually tired of freelancing, I went for a clean break and decided to focus on totally unrelated fields.

    Now, any and all technical skills -- real, practical knowledge of various computer programs, any significant social-media-related, Web-building, graphic design and IT savvy -- will translate much better and are much more valued.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page