Art might just save journalism

WHEN journalist Margo Kingston described the existential crisis of journalism, and that she wouldn’t advise anyone to enter the industry, she expressed what very few media punters were willing to say.

Journalism dropped to the bottom of satisfying career lists during the last decade. In the 2013 ‘Jobs from Best to Worst’ survey, conducted for the past 25 years, CareerCast.com listed Reporter last, at number 200, with Editor not much higher, at 168.

How did we get here?

It’s hard to gauge, but things can hardly get worse. As advertising revenue continues to take a dive, and limitless access to social media fosters the expectation that content should be free, neither the mainstream or social media allocates much money to the creation of content.

On this score alone, Journalists have entered the career bracket previously inhabited by Artists, where remuneration is never guaranteed, product floats below the surface of a constantly uncertain marketplace, and validation is in very short supply.

To put things into perspective, the CareerCast.com survey ranked Artist at 148, Choreographer comes in at 156, even Actor, once considered the most marginal of careers with 99 percent unemployment at any given time, gets a higher ranking than Journalist, at 197.

On this advice, Journalists might be wise to start thinking and operating like Artists in order to change the ranking of our industry.

Depressingly, holidays are the hardest time of the year to do so. If you’re an Artist, the silly season can be anything from an inconvenience to a handy escape from the fact that it’s another year, another blank canvas.

“Journalists might be wise to start thinking and operating like Artists.”

Unless you’re a successful practising Artist of any stripe, it may have been devastatingly easy for you to take time off from your creative work and spend summer days with friends and family, joining in at the edge of groups of ‘real people with real jobs’: Web Developers (ranked at 24), Hair Stylists (83), Architects (61), Statisticians (20), and a host of other very sensible folk who listened to their parents and forged careers with prospects.

It takes plenty of self belief and a plastered smile to get through. Having even a shred of an official day job goes a long way to keeping you off most naysayers’ radars.

And you don’t have to be anything nearly as extreme as an Artist to raise eyebrows over the Christmas pudding.

Try adding something even slightly different or new to your repertoire (Citizen Journalism, for example), and notice how the occasion soon becomes like the dinner table scene in August: Osage County.

“How is that going for you?” cousin Peter (let’s imagine he’s a Financial Planner, snug at ranking number 5) asks, topping up your glass with his wine, and you have no answer, because you’re really not sure, exactly, how it is going for you, you only know you’re drawn to spend your life doing something different than he.

As the summer days lead us from parties and fireworks back to the working week, friends and family in the great good workforce drift back to their routines.

The mainstream media fills this period with an array of self-help articles of the New Year’s Resolution stripe (purchased from syndicated news sources for a pittance), the perfect panacea for people who only ever dream of pursuing their heart’s desire.

But Artists generally have no back-to-work start date. We need to make one for ourselves. Of course there may be an app for that, but is there anything to inspire the independent Artist into resolutions to sustain our dreams?

During the holiday I read some alarmingly depressing ideas about being an Artist: apparently it doesn’t get any better than it already isn’t.

I hasten to add that this comes from a very successful UK-based Author (a profession ranked at 156) of many published books, who may well be having to fill 2014 with checking over the proofs of her latest release as it hits the shelves in another edition, poor thing.

HANDY ADVICE Georgia O'Keeffe, hands 1918 (Photo: Alfred Stieglitz).
HANDY ADVICE Georgia O’Keeffe, hands 1918 (Photo: Alfred Stieglitz).

Lest this all get too negative for words, let me redress the imbalance with some inspiration from working Artists who’ve been there, done that, because Artists learned, long before Journalists came on the scene, that the only solution to negative situations is to just keep creating.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” Andy Warhol

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.” Georgia O’Keeffe

“Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.” Erica Jong

WRITE REGARDLESSAnd one for the Citizen Journalists.

“Writing is a struggle against silence.” Carlos Fuentes

Working in the lowest-placed profession for nothing ranks you as a legend.

An extract from Write, regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

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