You can be a journalist without a job at a mainstream news organization

That headline seems obvious, no?

Then why is it that when journalists see layoffs, buyouts, and newspaper companies in trouble, they sigh and say “Should I stop wasting my time and start applying to advertising agencies?


Here are a few ways you be a journalist without a full-time job at a mainstream news organization:

  1. Become a placeblogger.  Report on your community.  Beat the local newspaper, because you’re on the ground in your neighborhood and they’re probably not.  Make friends, and eventually, you may find yourself in the advertising business after all, selling space on your awesome local news blog.  Example: Baristanet.
  2. Freelance.  It sounds scarier than it is.  If you’re passionate about your beat, you might already be blogging about it.  That means you have some sort of body of work, or demonstration of your expertise on a given subject.  Use that to sell your ideas to magazines, niche publications that have money to spend and small in-house staffs.  My first paid reporting gigs were in a tiny little niche of the tech industry that I was interested in, if not necessarily passionate about.
  3. Got an idea?  Get a grant.  The Knight News Challenge is a great place to start.  If you have a great idea for how to do something innovative with local news, anywhere, you should be applying for a News Challenge grant, and this time next year, you could be getting paid to do something amazing, full-time.
  4. Get a job at a non-profit, and do journalism that matters for them.  Is that something like PR?  Maybe, but if you love the work they do, isn’t this a bit of a shortcut to saving the world?

None of these gigs involve working full-time for a big media company.  What was it exactly that you wanted out of journalism?  To work for a big company, or to be a journalist?

It’s not that simple, of course.  My health insurance is a bit more reliable now than it was when I was a student or a bartender.  (And you don’t even want to know how underinsured I was when I freelanced in the movie business.)

But if journalism is your passion, you’ll find the work you want.

Howard Owens will give you $100 to get with the program

That’s right, if you’re an ink-stained, hard-nosed reporter who thinks all this New Media stuff is bunk, Boss Owens has a hundred Amazon bucks with your name on ’em.

If you perform a few small tasks, of course.

Like, start reading blogs, get a blog, start writing, shoot some stills and video, upload them, join a social network or two, and generally, just get with the program and give the new world a try.

Lots of details in Howard’s post.

Do the net-savvy thing and tell a friend who isn’t.

Watch out for secondary characters with more interesting stories than your protagonist

That’s good advice up there in the title of this post. I got it from a screenwriting teacher, and it’s been a running joke around our house for the last week based on a couple movies we’ve watched lately.

And it’s also good advice for narrative journalists.

But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about the Long Bet between Dave Winer and Martin Nisenholtz.

Just in case anyone is keeping score, I’ll add my name to the list of unofficial judges who think Wikipedia was the winner.

Here’s the kicker from Rogers Cadenhead’s post on the topic:

“Winer predicted a news environment ‘changed so thoroughly that informed people will look to amateurs they trust for the information they want.’ Nisenholtz expected the professional media to remain the authoritative source for ‘unbiased, accurate, and coherent” information. Instead, our most trusted source on the biggest news stories of 2007 is a horde of nameless, faceless amateurs who are not required to prove expertise in the subjects they cover.”

He’s exaggerating (‘nameless, faceless’) to harp on the contrast between the interesting secondary character in this story and the protagonist/antagonist pair, but the point is clear:

The crowd beats the individual and the organization when it comes to …well, SEO is a factor… but the reason the crowd’s version of events floats to the top of search results has more to do with individuals linking to the crowd’s record than a header tag matching a title tag.

There’s plenty of intriguing thought about this being thrown around, including these bits:

  • Dave Winer: “The world that I hoped would come about did not. While blogs have broken many stories, they have not, in general, turned into the authoritative sources I hoped they would in 2002. When the blogosphere resembles journalism it’s often the tabloid kind.”
  • Paul Boutin: “Cadenhead has exposed the flaw in my genius idea: I presumed there were only two sides. That’s journalist math. Any real techie knows there are never only two values to anything in real life.”

Where’s Martin Nisenholtz’s blog, anyway?  I’m eager to hear his take on this.

And the last open-ended question: Who’s the third player in the scene you’re writing? For example, is there a third element in the Newspapers vs. craigslist equation?

Twitter take-up Tuesday brought me Clarence

I’m not going to go into much detail or analysis of what happened to Twitter today, other to point out that this blog post by Jeremiah Owyang started it and became a hub for at least 300 people to connect to each other, and thus to each other’s networks.

“Quite simply, my whole hustle is that,
‘I do me’.” — Clarence

I enjoyed making some new Twitter friends (20 or so), got a good answer to a good question, answered another one, promoted myself (hi new blog readers!) and then Eric Rice led me to DYKC.

And my day was made.

From a recent blog post at Do You KNOW Clarence:

“Whenever I meet new people, one of the first things they ask me regarding Do You KNOW Clarence? is what I do. Maybe the assumption is that since I’ve developed this brand, I must do something that warrants spotlighting myself with a clever tagline. Quite simply, my whole hustle is that, ‘I do me’.”

And he does. Subscribed.

So if you haven’t posted a comment on Jeremiah’s post with your Twitter link yet, go do so now, and find some interesting people in that thread to follow.