meditations on journalism, buddhism and the future

So, I’ve been pretty quiet about where I work now.

I’m not sure why. It could be slight amounts of shame, it could be that I’m just not ready. But, for now, I’ve made a move away from journalism. It wasn’t really planned and I’m not sure it’s forever, but I’m certainly learning a lot and trying something new.

I’m working as an editor at a online marketing company. That’s as specific as I’m going to get now, though it’s not hard to figure out where I am if you do some sleuthing.

I think getting the boot two journalism jobs in a row has put a slightly sour taste in my mouth. If I do go back to journalism, it’ll be with the satisfaction that I know it is what I love.

Journalism and Meditation: Leaving the Door Open

I’ve been struggling a lot with dealing with that. I’m very career oriented, always have been, so a deviation of path is frightening to me.

This is going to sound off-topic, but stay with me here. I went to a mediation session on Monday and sat for 30 min, with lots of thoughts about my future, my life and my job in my head. There was a short dharma talk after, but the best part of the night was a conversation with my friend.

Another friend of ours is amazingly successful at what she does. But the thing that was brought up to me was that most people who are extremely successful leave the door open to possibility, while making the most of where they are.

I have not been doing that.

It’s Not Time Now

Lately, I’ve been working with journalism organizations on the side, ONA and AAJA, as well as co-founding #wjchat, a weekly web journalism Twitter chat.

I’ve stopped looking for freelance work (although I’ll take it if it comes along).

I’m a fountain of advice that I rarely follow myself, and it’s high time I stop that.

Journalism is still my first love, and always will be, but the door is open. Maybe this is a new path for me, maybe a slight divergence. Regardless, I’m 27 and there is plenty of time to figure it out.

Gen Y, as amazing as we are, is a little…..impatient. I’m impatient. I want the best of my career, this second.

It’s not going to happen. The people I admire most, my friends who have accomplished so much and who I model myself after, they are older.

It’s hard to remember that I’m young sometimes, oddly. I feel like a curmudgeon. My cynicism has gotten away from me.

Going With it

So, I’m resolving to go with it, from this minute. Social media is fantastic. I love it. I love editing, I love web production, I love data visualization, I love journalism, I love pushing boundaries.

Where does that get me? God knows.

But we’re leave the door open and maybe the path I’m on will lead to something great. If not, I’ll take a shortcut through the woods.

It’s OK.

worth it?

I was reading this post written by an intern, which in my opinion is a scary place to be.

It’s one thing to be in journalism and try to hold on, it’s another to be entering the field and have hope.

I’m glad Jessica has hope. I agree with her that things have to and will change. We will all have jobs, we will all still be journalists, but we’ll be doing something different.

I am tired of hyperlocal being toted as the savior. Innovation is the savior. I’ve watched hyperlocal fail.

We need to find a way to deliver the news to people, quickly, instantly and well.

Does it mean Twitter will be a newsroom or that papers will all be on the Kindle? No idea.

I think first, we need to think about catching up. Media needs to start hiring people (ahem, me) that use the web the way that the next generation does. We need to stop being afraid of change and “scaring readers.” It’s great to hold onto the things that the rapidly aging stereotypical newspaper reader likes, but really, they will not be the ones buying ads and subscriptions in 20 years.

Make your site mobile friendly. It’s ridiculous how many sites are not. I, and most people I know have a Blackberry or iPhone or at least Internet on their phones. Get used to it.

Get a Twitter feed and use it well. Establish a presence, even if it’s not the best, on all the other social networking sites.

Fix your RSS feeds, for God’s sake. Make sure they all work, and there is one for every section, every blog, every columnist.

Redesign your site so you don’t look like you came from 1995.

Train all your photographers to do video, and while you’re at it, the reporters too.

Have everyone try liveblogging and at least understand what this new fangled social media is about and how it works.

One of my friends recently told me her newspaper didn’t even have blogs. Really? And you ask why people won’t log onto the site?

Let your staff try new things and let them fail. Know when to give up, when to try again and when to start.

Maybe it’s because I’m an idealist, 25 and want to have hope that this will all come out for the better, but I don’t see why this is so hard. This is not a curmudgeon versus rookie debate. Let’s stop fighting. It’s ridiculous the amount of space and time that journalists spend arguing about why we are failing. I don’t care. Figure out who is succeeding and ask yourselves why they can do it, but you can’t.

It is worth it, if you take the time to try.

a little bit about diversity

This past week I took off for Chicago for UNITY 2008, a quadrennial conference put on by the major minority journalist orgs.

I always get little sleep and have lots of fun — seeing old colleagues, meeting new people and remembering why I love this business.

This year I felt odd. I am one of the few laid-off young journalists I’ve heard of. I was still able to come (thanks to the folks at McClatchy, most of whom I do not hold a grudge), so I could look at all the gloom and doom statements with a little bit of experience.

On top of that, I was cruising the career fair for jobs, this time as a web producer.

Before leaving for the conference, I scheduled a couple of interviews with non-journalism companies looking for editors or marketing people. I was running low on faith that the industry had anything for me anymore. I had been beat up and turned out by journalism and I wasn’t sure I could go back in.

After returning, I’m not so sure. I realize I do have a perspective that isn’t out there.

I am an Asian American woman, who happens to love being a journalist and happens to love the web. That is rare.

There are other journalists who are doing it. There are other web folk that are pushing the envelope and I had several really positive discussions on the future of the web. I also had some bad discussions with recruiters and editors who did not really like the web.

I may have regained my faith. There are not many of us, but we are there. We can change the way journalism works and we can do it while maintaining and hopefully gaining diversity in newsrooms. I realize that I am rare and that if I leave, there will be one less minority view in the media, something desperately needed.

As budget have shrank, no one thinks about minorities. There are few internships anymore and the larger fellowship programs have mostly been cut. My company made the mistake of laying off a young, fresh, talented minority journalist and I had more than one person totally agree that it was a poor decision.

I want to try to make a difference and I don’t need a byline to make it. I can do it by helping newspapers figure out the web.

I hope this feeling lasts.