do not mention the war

quo vadis journalism?

In Media Analysis on March 15, 2013 at 12:17

Is it a bad time to be a journalist? Not to mention becoming one? What are the chances in journalism today? Are there any?

It might seem somewhat preposterous a question to ask from a young researcher but having researched almost 50 years of sports journalism in the last 5 years, there is some justification to ask such a question.

According to Jonathan Wilson, editor of The Blizzard and author of numerous books (among them Inverting the Pyramide, a history of football tactics and Anatomy of England. A History in 10 Matches.) it was never easier to get into journalism, sports journalism to be precise. Yet at the same time, he added, it was almost impossible to make a decent living from it. He concluded that we live in a ‘golden age’ of sports journalism as the standard has never been so high. He has a point.

Other voices, from Germany say the same. Daniel Drepper for instance. An investigative journalist, he describes the current era as ‘the best time to become a journalist.’ True, it was never easier to write and publish. There are endless voices to be read, heard and seen. It’s all online. Drepper argues that it was never easier to exercise a certain control over those in power with open and sound journalism. True.

However, Newspaper journalism is in severe crisis. The situation at the guardian has not been good to say the least. A newspaper that was often lauded for its sports coverage, it came as a surprise when the company announced losses and as a result the writing staff had to be thinned out. Among those gone are Frank Keating, Kevin McCarra, Richard Williams and Paul Hayward.

Not just newspaper journalism is facing problems. It is the increasing number of blogs that are the problem for Wolfgang Michal. He reasons as the profession of journalist is no registered trade, every one can call him/herself a journalist. For Michal, 95% (!!!) of all produced content are not journalism but mere overproduced content to fill the pages. This kind of filling material is destroying the trade and as a consequence will see the prices per word getting lowered, making this business an unprofitable one for writers.

Journalism for Michal includes the observation, reporting, classification and discussion of politics, economics, culture etc and it is best left to the professionals. The same argument comes from Barney Ronay who argues that football journalism is facing a slow death. Not because no one wants to do it any more,

but because everybody seems to wants to do it at the same time.

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The questions this evokes are: can free, independent and investigative journalism sustain a family? Hardly would be the correct answer.

Working within a newspaper environment brings with it endless and often needless chores. As a freelance journalist, it is almost impossible to live without constant deadlines in the back of the mind and the reality of lousy pay. And increasingly, this is no longer a safe job as the current waves of redundancies in Germany prove. These arguments, cuts and insecurity and the workload and the lousy pay appear to be the only points against journalism. But these are not restricted to Germany nor to journalism.

The trend seems to be going towards an author-based model of journalism, i.e. a writer runs a website/blog where he features all his recent work – copyright permitting of course – or provides links to the most recent pieces written for such and such website/magazine/newspaper etc. In return he’ll get a few cent/pennies for each click. The better he writes, the more clicks.

Yet, it seems possible as Richard Gutjahr has pointed out in this informative post. He earns a regular sum through micropayment systems such as flattr and via pay pal. Also, amazon partner links make the tills ring. Further, he has a major sponsor for his blog. Gutjahr revealed that at least 50000 clicks per month are required to get the figures he has. This seems as lot for many bloggers but pennies are pennies. This underlines the quest for quality furthermore. His main sponsor is more interested in content than clicks, which is of course an attitude that is not often found and which suits him.

These thoughts  can not define or auger in which direction the field of journalism is directing; neither is the future of sports journalism predictable. It remains however, a field worth working in. And the number of blogs and magazines are witness to that. Communities such as the football writer and blogger group at google+ provide plenty of reading material for the interested reader. The Sportbloggernetzwerk in Germany offers a platform for bloggers to share their work but also to discuss legal matters.

Therefore journalism as a profession has to undergo changes and adopt new technologies and work patterns in order to stay healthy. It needs to show a capability to reinvent and rejuvenate itself.

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  1. […] “Is it a bad time to be a journalist? Not to mention becoming one? What are the chances in journalism today? Are there any? It might seem somewhat preposterous a question to ask from a young researcher but having researched almost 50 years of sports journalism in the last 5 years, there is some justification to ask such a question.” Do not mention the war […]

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