Thursday, April 20, 2006

These young writers today!!

Phil Hall, the editor of PR News in the US and managing editor of the Media Industry Newsletter (MIN), laments the fact that it's so hard to find good, young writers and he thinks he knows some reasons why:
1.There are very few contemporary journalism "stars" for tomorrow’s writers to look up to.

2. The average journalism student knows nothing about how the "bigger" world operates.

3. The Internet is crippling journalism.

4. There is no economic incentive because of inadequate starting salaries in journalism.

To read the whole column, go here.


Anonymous Jake Kennedy said...

I have one to add:

Too many people get into journalism because they "like to write", instead of liking to tell stories. Big difference between the two.

2:55 pm  
Blogger David Leach said...

Too many people get into journalism because they "like to write", instead of liking to tell stories. Big difference between the two.

I'll bite: What's the difference?

From my experience teaching at a school (University of Victoria) that weds a major program for creative writers with a minor program in journalism/professional writing, the big difference tends to be between talented students who like to write (and tell stories) but seem chronically averse to conducting interviews and gathering other people's stories (ie, 18-year-old memoirists in the making), and ambitious wannabe journalists keen to see their bylines in the Globe, but who struggle to master the art of a well-crafted sentence, let along a longer narrative.

That middle/fusion ground between reporting and storytelling -- call it "literary journalism" or "feature writing" or (terrible word) "creative non-fiction" or just "magazine writing" -- seems especially tricky for them to negotiate. And they often seem reluctant even to try.

I don't think it's 1) because there are "very few contemporary journalism stars", though. Newspapers (and, less so, magazines) shot themselves in the foot by embracing bogus star systems that resulted in the kudzu-like proliferation of fact-light, navel-gazing columnists (cf., the Globe and the Post at the height of their pissing match) and ego-driven charlatans (eg, Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass) that diminished readers' faith in journalists.

Hall's theory #2) (the know-nothing theory) is so vague as to be meaningless.

But I think he's more on the mark with 3 and 4: It's the economy, stupid.

The publishing model of ink on dead trees seems increasingly precarious. And why would a talented writer (esp. in Canada) apprentice themselves as an overworked, underpaid community newspaper journalist only to reach the big time...and then get a pink slip in the next wave of CanWest layoffs? Or bust their butts as freelancers only to hit the buck-a-word glass ceiling at magazines that's well over a decade old?

Especially when they can make more writing for film or TV or (holding their noses) PR or even apply their storytelling skills to the lucrative world of video games. That many still pursue mainstream journalism as an outlet for their passion for writing and storytelling is the more incredible fact.

Ultimately, it's a lesson straight from Journalism 101: Follow the money...

2:11 pm  

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