To all of those stubborn newspaper readers/writers out there, playing violins with ink-stained thumbs on the Titanic of print journalism, as it plummets desperately into the unforgiving Atlantic Ocean…
The game has changed.
And this abrupt shift is not to spite old-fashioned journalism. There’s just a better, more efficient way of doing things now.
It would be impossible, downright assinine, to go back to the old ways. That would be like rubbing two sticks together to start a fire, when you know perfectly well that an orange BiC lighter, nestled snugly in your back pocket, fully fueled, will ignite at the stroke of that serrated sparkwheel.
I can say this because I studied journalism—multimedia journalism, in fact—at just the right time, when everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) was shifting. It felt like entering willingly into a black hole. The very fabric of my being has been altered at a fundamental level and I think we’re all still scrambling to collect some semblance of order in these volatile times.
Frankly, I don’t know where I’ll end up, at what corner of the Universe this black hole will take me. That’s part of the fun and what scares the living shit out of me. But I like my vantage point within the eye of the storm. From here, I can find peace and set aside a little time to tell you old-fashioned journalists the way it is, just like your beloved Walter Cronkite used to…
A brief history of a Web journalist
When I graduated from Stonehill College, in 2004, with a bachelor’s in philosophy, I had little to no idea of my place in the professional world. I took the first job I could, in finance. Needless to say, it was not for me.
After several years, a passion for writing emerged and I made the decision to leave my job and pursue this dream full-time. I enrolled in a master’s program at Emerson College, in the journalism department. My goal was to learn how to write professionally. They did coach us well in that capacity, but I learned very early on that the industry of journalism was changing. Online news had revolutionized the way we perceived the media. And Emerson, ever the savvy institution in communications, intended to prepare us for this new world.
Instead of only focusing on writing, they had to equip us with the knowledge of this digital landscape. In place of writing news story after news story, we took a crash course in news writing and then focused on how to create news packages that incorporated multimedia. At even the initial conceptual stage of a story, we had to perceive how it would appear on a news website.
These packages could include hyperlinks, graphics, video, sound, etc. Visitors not only read online news stories; they interacted with them. We had to consider these other corresponding components, as well, throughout the newsgathering and storytelling process. I suspected my study of writing suffered, but I remained open-minded.
After two years of intensive print and multimedia journalism, I was graduated from Emerson with a master’s in just that. Upon leaving, I took in as much experience as I could. I wasn’t sure where this experience would lead me.
I managed to land a job reporting for the Boston Herald. Then a chance ad I found on Twitter earned me a position updating Patriots.com.
Accumulating a diverse experience in all things media, old and new, I still could not focus.
The job market remained unpredictable.
When the Patriots’ 2010-11 season ended, I found myself unemployed and began applying to many jobs. I was lucky to come across an open position at Perkins School for the Blind, which needed a Web Content Writer. The requirements spoke to my experience, thus far, and I applied. Brandishing a broad base of Web writing experience to the hiring managers, I got the job.
It seemed as though I would primarily write, but when I arrived at the nation’s oldest school for visual impairment, in Watertown, Mass., the responsibilities included many other duties—running Perkins’ social media, laying out webpages in HTML code, formatting photos in PhotoShop and understanding functionality of the content management system. This job had quite the technical side, which I resisted at first. I thought of myself purely as a writer, but remained open-minded.
I developed these technical skills to complement my Web writing and, after a while, it made more sense that these were necessary for the role. Over time, I even developed a knack for creating dynamic webpages for Perkins.org and began focusing less on the copy. I regret this now because I believe it may have stunted my progression as a professional writer. I simply wasn’t practicing enough, as requests for e-marketing campaigns, technical troubleshooting, and initiatives from Perkins ever-expanding eLearning department abounded.
Then, suddenly, I found myself unemployed, once again.
Like a said earlier, I didn’t know where this worm hole would lead me. To what end?
About two years into the Web content writing role, the communications director made a drastic shift in organization. She dismantled the Web team, for whom I had formerly written Web content, and said I was now just a writer. That’s what she hired me for: to write! Apparently, the term “web content” that had initially modified my title of “writer,” now meant nothing.
Even though the rest of the world was moving on to the grander electronic platform, Perkins was content just rubbing two sticks together.
They didn’t need me anymore. It just didn’t make sense to me! What a waste of talent, expertise and intimate knowledge of the organization, I thought.
Then I found peace. (Perhaps centered once again in the eye of the new media storm.) I knew that truth does not always guide organizations, however big… or old, they may be.
People in the real world would evolve into new and exciting modes of interconnected perception. Yet Perkins would stay the same.
And that’s the way it is.