Rianna Middleton

Life of a wanna-be journalist: A state of resilience

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At a young age, I discovered a love of writing. I wrote full-length stories, complete with compelling female characters who took on everything from fighting crime to everyday life in the suburbs. I also created my own magazines, cutting out pictures from real publications and gluing them onto my own articles, stapling the whole bundle together once I was done. I envisioned a future for myself as a best-selling author or the Editor-in-Chief of a well-known magazine.

Fast forward to when it was time to apply to college and figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I felt enormous pressure as I learned that the industry I had always imagined I would spend my career in was going through massive change. I ended up entering college with a major in Journalism, my dream of being a reporter or an editor still intact. As time went by, doubt in myself and the media industry set in as more and more people told me I could never make money as a journalist or as a writer. Nevertheless, I pushed on with my studies and continued to hone my writing craft.

After my second year of college, I had the opportunity to be a research assistant for a very smart professor who was studying fake news during the 2016 presidential election, Rachel Mourao. I was eager to embark on this research with her, as I had seen the industry undergo severe scrutiny during and after the election.

Journalists who worked for legacy publications and abided by a strict Code of Ethics were being accused of producing so-called fake news, and I wanted to get to the bottom of it as much as she did. I wanted to help restore the reputation of my profession and industry. I wanted to help show that we were still the good guys, the watchdogs. While we uncovered some very interesting findings through that summer study, it didn’t stop the phrase from being thrown around constantly throughout that year and the next. The issue of fake news was only one part of a much larger problem the industry was facing.

Approximately a year later, I found myself sitting in my very last class to complete my journalism degree, Media Marketing and Entrepreneurship. I assumed I knew everything about the state of the media industry until I read the Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media report for 2018. Although many of the findings were things I expected, such as the decline of newspapers, I was surprised to learn that the industry many people believe is dying actually seems to be making a comeback.

Traditional radio has experienced steady revenue and audience levels, although stations specializing in news have not been quite as lucky. Online radio and podcasts are growing, and more and more publications are trying to find their place on the medium. Digital native outlets are also doing well, learning from their legacy counterparts how to maximize online advertising revenue.

I was glad to see a silver lining in the report. It gives me hope for the future of media and journalism. I think it shows that the industry is full of fighters, innovators and entrepreneurs. As Professor Haimerl said on the first day of class, the shifts in the media industry are never about content — they’re always about the medium and the delivery of content. Good journalism will always be valuable as long as we know how to deliver it the way audiences want to consume it.

While we may be in the middle of an intense shift in the industry, the report gives me hope that we’re changing for the better. I believe we’re becoming savvy media marketers and content creators with a better idea of how the business works. I think this resilience will help us come out even stronger from this wave of change.

3 thoughts on “Life of a wanna-be journalist: A state of resilience

  1. Rianna — I think you make some excellent points here. Call it a personal state of denial, ignorance, what have you, but I have long said whenever I am told the news industry is a dying one and that a successful career will be hard to obtain I try to explain that the industry isn’t on its way out, rather is undergoing the single-largest revolution since the invention of the printing press.

    Technology and the internet are obviously the way of the future, and legacy publications have only come to grips with that a few years ago. I think the unfortunate result of that is it puts small and mid-size markets at a severe disadvantage because subscriptions and circulations continue to decline for small papers. Will they rise from the ashes once digital advertising revenue resembles even a glimpse of what profits print ads netted some 15-20 years ago? Hopefully. And I like to think that time isn’t too far off.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate to your story. As a journalism student the question of what will happen next is always on my mind. Seeing how interest and revenues for most media is declining can often make new students feel demoralized about the future. As you state this period is one of change and we should all see it for what it is! Not a downfall of media, but the signal for a new start.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed how you made your blog post very personal. It was very interesting to hear how reading the Pew Research Center report affected your perspective as a passionate writer.

    I agree with you—although news media is experiencing a lot of changes and shifts due to technological advances, social media and the internet, reading the report kind of gives us student journalists who are passionate about writing some hope. People are still relying on the news media to get their information, it just might be being viewed through different mediums.

    Liked by 2 people

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