Saturday, March 21, 2009

Journalism is dead, Long live journalism

By tradition, it is a phrase that has come to signify the end of an era and beginning of another, with no visible time break. A flag at half mast informs those mourning that it will be business as usual.

In newsrooms across media lands, there appears to be no continuum. A profession which in the UK is credited to Addison and Steele now a multi billion industry is being picked apart at the seams.

Journalism is dead, long live journalism !!

It seems preposterous to think anything positive about these times. As a freelance journalist during the 80s and 90s, that sunken feeling of finding a job is a phantom limb that never quite goes away.

When I look through files and read through the endless rejection letters, I might have wished of nothing more than a shakeup to give me an in. Oh I yearned for it, but not like this, as I watch friends and acquaitances get promoted down or sacked.

In 1992, the height of another recession, I was told [nicely] by one BBC human resource personnel, "Don't you think it would be better for you to find another profession?".

I'd already junked a career, burnt its ships, in Chemistry. What was I to do? We've all faced this.

Perhaps I was fortunate. Armed with references from BBC Newsnight, BBC Reportage and BBC GLR, I upped sticks and sought out a story that would rejuvenate a crumbling non-start-of-a-career.

There was only one place to go where my passion could combine with my curiosity and technical skills. South Africa was my "Long live journalism", in which films such as Through the Eyes of a Child, BBC Radio 4's First Time Voters, and working with ABC News gave me a panoramic insight of what I truly wanted to do.

Through out the years that followed, each job I took, and out of the many only two were by formal interview panels, I was forced to re skill, retrain myself. In effect I know what I know now because I had to to find the next job.

Journalism is dead, long live journalism. You're a fool I would have said to think that.

In May, my university stages a conference with international interest: Journalism in Crisis. If you're a freelancer it always was.

But it's being acknowledged that this perfect storm: the economy, Internet, tech revolution, cultural change in attitudes and what the Financial Times presented in a deeply insightful article: When Papers Fold is tantamount to: "Journalism is dead", with no "long live" tagged on.

When Papers Fold by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, lists antiquated costs structures in the business of newspapers among others variables why journalism is dying.

The glass half full approach, staring at these hard time, might posit a new approach akin to William Webb-Ellis, apocryphally, picking up a football in 1823 and instead of kicking the damn thing, running with it.

A new game was born, which today sates the appetite of grown men, women, boys and girls: rugby. My cousin Paul Sackey excels at it well.

The Net and associates does not spell the end of journalism, but the beginning of something else, whatever that may be.

I am no longer a day-in-day out journalist, but recognise what it could do for me a videojournalist, blogger and the like.

We're not far of from the proclamation to accession, when new models and refined old one will fill out the 4th-5th estate. This flux will sort itself out, this death will pass.

How ready will we be when it dawns?

Journalism is dead, Long live journalism