The big news to day is that Ann Mutschler is leaving EDN
after 7 total years (She came to work with me after two years, bounced around
the PR trade and then went back five years ago). That's bad news for the electronics industry who is losing yet another experienced, credible third-party voice. It's bad news for EDN, too. Ann has been a prodigious writer for the Reed
publications. She was brought in
by Ed Sperling and survived several rounds of layoffs (including Mike
Santarini, Sperling, and Maury Wright) before deciding that she could make it
on her own as a freelancer. She
has several contracts lined up and I have her targeted for work with New Tech
I'm using this as a lead in the part three on the
"profession" of journalism because it proves my point in a timely manner.
In the last entry, I made the claim that journalism really doesn't meet
the criteria for being called a profession; that it might be more properly
labeled as a trade.
What is going on in the world of journalism I think plays
that out and Ann is an example.
Journalism is not rocket science.
I think it is harder than that.
You can't create a formula in mass communication that will create a
repeatable desired outcome. Rocket
science and electronic design cannot deal with uncertainty, but a journalist
has to. So what we do is nuanced,
crafted, edited, thought about and then launched without really knowing how it
will affect the audience. You can
make a guess based on experience about how it will work, but you never really
know until you put it out there.
Being salaried doesn't really work for journalists. Newsrooms around the world appreciate
the craftsmanship of an experience journalist and they want to hire them. But very few can actually afford to pay
them what they are worth and there are novices willing to work for peanuts,
which drives down the salaries artificially. Except for the very small Newspaper Guild, there is no
salary range that actually works for journalists. You can't get a job without significant experience, but you
can't really get paid a living wage.
But tradesmen have a significantly different situation. They contract with their employers and
unions and guilds set the prices and provide the benefits. Yes, the work can be seasonal and there
are long dry periods, so the craftsman has to learn to budget
appropriately. But there is a
significant flexibility that is lacking in salaried work, along with the
ability to set your own standards.
Ann is moving out into this frontier of journalism and while
it is a little scary, it has as much future certainty as working in a newsroom
for a paycheck. She is working for
people that look at journalism as "black magic" because try as they
might, they can't string together two coherent sentences without a string a
buzz words that end up saying nothing.
There is still a place for newsrooms and publications, but
those places are increasingly becoming the training grounds for journalism; the
place for apprentices and new journeymen.
The publications will still require the skills of a master craftsman,
but increasingly, the craftsman will become the gatekeeper of the skill. How
will this come about? Well, we're
gonna get into that next. In the
meantime, welcome to the rest of your life, Ann. You're going to do just fine.