Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Do Journalists Really Want to Be Poor?

We're delighted that videojournalism pioneer Michael Rosenblum has taken the time to compose a thoughtful response to our question about whether modern-day journalists need to add "entrepreneur" to their growing list of required skills.

(See: "Now You Have to Be an Entrepreneur, Too?")

We encourage you to read his comment below our original post, and also his expanded essay on his own Rosenblum TV blog.

His title says it all: "Entrepreneurial Journalism: Do We Even Have to Ask?" He sees it as a self-esteem issue.

"The biggest mistake that journalists for the last 50 years have made," he writes, "was to wrap themselves in this glorification of poverty."

His argument is that lots of businesspeople have amassed extraordinary wealth from their Web pursuits, leaving in the dust the very people who excel at gathering, organizing and disseminating the information the Web is built upon -- journalists!

The Internet happened on our watch. It happened to our business, and it happened under our noses.

The Internet is the single biggest technologically driven transition of an industry since Gutenberg put ink to movable type. And billions have been made in the Internet Revolution – billions, but not by us.

Which is both strange and tragic because we were here first!

We should own Google and Craigslist and Facebook and a thousand other very successful sites.

But we don’t.

We don’t because we missed the entrepreneurial boat.

And why did we miss the entrepreneurial boat that sailed away right under our noses?

Because we have a love and a passion for poverty. We love to see ourselves as poor and struggling.
Personally we don't think it's quite that black and white. True, the image of the journalist as grizzled underdog had been overromanticized in books and movies (ranging from non-fiction "All the President's Men" to the fictitious "State of Play," pictured). But most journalists we know in real life aren't deliberately gravitating toward financial destitution. It's just that their passions tend in the direction of reporting and storytelling -- not spreadsheets and projections. Perhaps j-school grads aren't striving for their first billion with the same zeal as their MBA confreres, but at the same time they're not lusting after low-paying gigs for the sheer bohemian thrill of it.

More to the point, their motivation for pursuing journalism may not be the same as the motivation of a high-charging empire builder -- but, to our thinking, that doesn't necessarily translate to the presumption that journalists think "money is evil."

And, back to our original point, it can't be assumed that people who possess the skill sets required to become accomplished journalists should also be able to excel at entrepreneurial endeavours such as sales, marketing and promotion.

Ultimately, we believe the solution will lie in collaboration -- the formation of partnerships and collectives that consist of pros whose individual strengths and talents can be combined and leveraged for the benefit of the common good. Microcosms of lean, mean newsrooms -- but without the dead weight of middle-management layers... and rooms.

And while that may not make us all filthy rich, it will be a far cry from the "ink-stained wretch" image that understandably makes Rosenblum cringe.

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