I envy journalists of the past. It’s not because they didn’t have to worry about the threat of online and mobile media, or because they were generally paid more handsomely; I envy them because the career path a journalist took was rather straight forward. One would start locally and move up until find oneself working for a prestigious national news media company.
While there still is some merit in taking a career path similar to that, there are an abundance of different directions a journalist can take themselves now—not all of them so linear. Reading about Vox’s ability to pry established journalists from national brands such as The Washington Post in The New York Times’ piece by Leslie Kaufman has made me realize that both employees and employers in the media industry have many factors to consider in the hiring process.
Ezra Klein, the respected journalist for The Washington Post who left to join Vox, summed up a big reason why big-time traditional media companies are no longer a shoo-in for the best journalists when he described his reason for leaving the Post.
“We were badly held back not just by the technology, but by the culture of journalism,” said Klein.
There are obvious benefits to working at a brand like The Washington Post or The New York Times. For one, one gets a ready-made audience that has been building over decades. The appeal of an up and comer such as Vox, however, is just as easy to see. For example, they offer more freedom and provide a wealth of opportunities to report and tell stories in a fashion never done so before. This is mostly due to new technological enhancements to the journalistic process and a corporate culture that is willing to take risks.
In the end, journalists must decide what is more important to them, but at least they have the choice. If prestige publishers are able to keep the best and brightest in-house, however, they will most likely have to improve in the areas that new media sources thrive in. We already have seen many long-running publications slow to adapt to the shifting toward online and mobile-centered content.
Maybe the higher-ups in these media companies will be more receptive to change this time around, but we have already seen how a shakeup to the process can rattle a publication like it did to The New Republic. Large media companies will have to be comfortable bringing in more and more people on the technology side that can create friendlier processes, both inward and outward facing.
According to Kaufman, the big advantage Vox has displayed is its ability to comfortably mesh the editorial with the tech side—something most traditional publishers have failed to do.
“Developers at Vox Media call themselves journalists and work continually with writers and reporters to build the tools they require,” Kaufman said.
Media companies are quickly learning that it will take much more than just good journalism and a big name to succeed in this market anymore. Like most things in life, balance is key.