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Published on February 5th, 2015 | by Dr. Jimmy Wall

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Journalism is Dying in the Gutter

It’s time we accepted the truth. Much like privacy, journalism is dead, too. I’m not joking. It has actually been dead for a while. Well, not literally dead. There is still some good journalism out there, but it’s difficult to come by — a lot of noise is suffocating it.

It’s more like journalism is lying in the gutter, slowly bleeding out. But it’s not the loss of blood that is killing it. It’s the alcohol. Journalism is drinking itself to death, like a homeless alcoholic that has given up on life. Everyone walks by, complaining about its body lying there, drunk, bleeding everywhere, but no one lifts a damn finger to help.

Is this coming from a journalist? A disgruntled one, maybe?

You bet.

If there is something I’ve been the most passionate about throughout my life it is writing and journalism. But it wasn’t until I studied the profession at an academic level and got the opportunity to proudly call myself a journalist that I understood how messed up this profession is at the moment.

My first experience was that I got the impression a lot of journalists seemed a bit paranoid, as if someone was hunting them, like they did with witches back in the old days. But the imagined witch-hunters aren’t governments or disgruntled people that had been exposed. They are other journalists.

How ridiculous is that? A profession that is dependent on networking to often avoid its peers like the plague.

The idea of the curious journalist that is keen on a chat with whoever seems more like a myth to me now. I’ve tried to network with other journalists, but very few seem interested, as there are only a handful I keep in regular contact with.

Of course, I don’t deny being a bit weird, so there might be a reason some prefer to avoid me like the plague.

Meh…

Then I noticed how much journalists loved to complain about their work. Don’t get me started on those who seemingly enjoy to brag about quitting being a journalist. Sure, I might sound like the former person right now, complaining about journalism, but it’s because I want change — I don’t want journalism to die.

I’m still a bit inclined to hear more stories from those who’ve decided to leave the field — as I can’t think of any other profession where it has become some kind of weird rite of passage to write a long column about why you’re throwing in the towel.

To me that’s a sign that something is not right, and I want to hear why it’s not right so we can fix this funk we’re in.

The days of Woodward and Bernstein are over, or so it too often seems.

Publishers don’t want to pay journalists to spend time investigating stories. Especially now when the deadline is 24/7. You should just write about whatever garners the most page hits.

So be sure to know how to write click-bait titles for your articles, not forgetting that if some dweeb writes a good story on a blog, just link to it, or paraphrase it. No need to pay anyone, other than to mention their name, but only if you have to.

That’s what we are worth now — nothing.

Unless you tailor your articles towards ads. Even better, write advertorials.

You see. Getting work as a journalist is not easy. Unless you fit a certain stereotype— which I won’t get into now — or because of nepotism. However, if you only care about a byline and are not too fussy about money, sure, write for free — everyone wants you.

There is no free lunch — only free journalists.

Or maybe it’s the self-esteem movement that is to blame? Parents telling all their kids that they’re special, turning their loathsome offspring into a bunch of narcissists, flooding editors with their shit writing, making them ignore anyone that puts up their hand saying they want to write for them.

The publishers stuffed it all up going digital, making online news free for about two decades, then expecting people to pay for it after they’ve embraced click-bait shit, churnalism and advertorials due to desperation. This is why people don’t want to pay for online newspapers, because they are afraid to be hoodwinked. They can get the click-bait, churnalism and advertorials on social media for free.

As scary as it might sound, especially for those young, aspiring journalists out there, not wanting to work for a click-bait hellhole, that actually know who Woodward and Bernstein are, journalism might just become the new form of blogging. You only do it because you have a passion for it, and some spare time after working 40-80 hours a week at your regular job — or real job as some like to call it.

Writing for free has become the norm. I can’t think of any other profession, other than design and software development, where you are expected to work for free. Exposure is so great.

Imagine telling someone with a degree in brain surgery to work for free, because it’s good exposure. And that they should get a real job first, while working as a brain surgeon in their spare time.

If you think it’s too much to bare to have me compare journalism to brain surgery, then swap it out with any other profession: electrician, truck driver, medical nurse, shop assistant, or teacher.

It might be a bit of a joke in sitcoms, the struggling journalist, or writer, that works as a barista at a local café, but for those of us passionate about what we do, it’s no joke. We would actually write a story about someone else in a similar situation, not to laugh at them, but because we, as journalists, would be concerned that an electrician or a teacher would have to treat their primary profession as a secondary one.

We would write a story to inform the public why it’s wrong if someone has to treat their profession as a secondary choice, or even as a hobby. Yet no one seems to do it for us — not even ourselves.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Journalism has always been a tough field to break into. You can still find quality writing out there, and investigative pieces that expose important truths still gets written. Although, as mentioned, those stories often seem like the proverbial needle in the haystack — where the haystack is click-bait, churnalism and advertorials.

If things don’t change, those of us passionate about journalism will turn into those smug bastards that write that last column, about how glad we are for leaving journalism behind — or write a blog, updating whenever we have some spare time.

Or else we’ll just end up like that homeless person, lying in the gutter, people walking past, not giving a shit, but just enough to hate us, while we slowly die from internal bleeding, due to drinking ourselves to death.

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About the Author

Dr. Jimmy Wall — journalist and columnist. Drawn to journalism thanks to Hunter S. Thompson’s Gonzo journalism. He shares the good old doctor’s disdain of objective journalism, as he too sees how it can be easily used to either not uncover the truth or pretend you have reported the truth. The good old doctor said it best, “I don't quite understand this worship of objectivity in journalism. Now, just flat-out lying is different from being subjective.”



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