One of the many things I follow on Facebook is John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. This week’s video was about the fall of local journalism, which, frankly, has been long in the coming. I worked in local newspapers in the late 90s and watched it all start to unravel in my little corner of this shitpile we call Earth. It was a fucking travesty. When a bustling newsroom goes from having 10 to 15 people on staff to a place filled with tumbleweeds and a skeleton staff that can barely handle the assignments that are absolutely necessary to generate the ad revenue vital to continue to publish a fraction of the pages the community once relied upon to better understand local government and happenin’s, that sinking ship is headed straight to Hell.
And that’s what this blog is about. Because before I was old enough to have contemplated a second divorce, I was trying to figure out how to out swim a typhoon of obsolescence that was trying really fucking hard to suck me down with it. But of course you lovely little fuckers know that’s not the end of my story, and it won’t be the end of yours if you’ll just fucking listen and use your head for something other than a coconut opener.
The Internet Made Me Obsolete And So Can You!
My whole life I wanted to be a journalist — a reporter on the ground. I trained for it, I worked hard, I did my time, I got a real reporting job… and *poof* that stopped being a thing because Internet. But it’s bittersweet because at the same time I love the possibilities that the Internet has brought, so I can’t completely hate it or blame it for wasting my entire life, you know?
Or can I?
Anyway, that’s not what this is about, not entirely. it’s true that the Internet has sort of completely destroyed a number of professions that we, the pre-Millennials were preparing to enter as they were quickly eroding away under our feet, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the end. You don’t have to be a properly trained journalist working at fucking Kroger because “Woe is fucking me, Journalism is dead.” You have options, even if you don’t realize it yet, you sad sorry fucking lump. That’s what this is about.
The Internet changed everything, almost overnight. Then smartphones came along and put the last nail in the coffin of what-used-ta-be and what-mighta-been, and it might seem like all that training and experience has gone right down the crapper, but you’re fucking wrong. You’re not a one trick pony, there’s not a single answer to your problem, and the same vehicle that crashed your dreams can also salvage them — in a way.
There’s never going to be another newsroom that smells like old cigars and whiskey, or story meetings where half the staff show up more than three quarters boozed up, but there are lots of virtual outlets that need writers, researchers and tons and tons of jobs for journalists. You just have to find them. Isn’t that what you’re trained to do? You’re a motherfucking bulldog, so go fucking dig!
Finding Use in Your Skill
Some skills, like journalism, have immediate application in magazine and website reporting, as well as working for online newspapers that aren’t completely upside down, but others are harder to put a face on in the digital age. Like, for instance, something we used to do a fair amount at the small papers: page design. If you don’t have a copy of Pagemaker circa 1998, you’re probably going to struggle to make this skill useful. However, layout and design are still vital and people still look at pages much the same way they always did.
Instead of focusing on the written page, think of other areas where the skill would be useful. How about email newsletters? MailChimp is a program that’s easy to learn and would be incredibly applicable to your skillset. You could work with a team designing infographics. You could help design web pages. There are many places this skill works, you just have to think a little harder with your gray matter.
Then there’s option number three, you lazy buggers. You could learn some applicable shit. I know, learning. Ew. Gross. Fucking braining shit. So awful. You journos can become copywriters pretty easily if you can learn the art of the sale. Not the sleazy car salesman garbage sale, but the true, fluid, honest sale; you designers can learn web programming or WordPress or some shit. I don’t know. I don’t know what you do, really.
So, in short, just because your job has become obsolete doesn’t mean that your skills are obsolete. I know you don’t want to be reduced to a pile of skills and fuck knows I didn’t like it much at first, but this is the Gig Economy, fuckers. Break yourself into bits and see what you’ve got to work with.
I bet you’ll find you fit in quite well somewhere in this digital wasteland.