Considering a journalism career? Forget about it, professors advise

by WorldTribune Staff, July 1, 2019

With social media monopolies driving privately-owned media out of business, journalism professors are advising their students to look for work outside of the news business.

The practice of social media platforms of dismantling true journalism to protect their business models has created “the greatest assault on free speech in American history,” said Dennis Prager, founder of the conservative Prager University.

‘The post-Watergate media era where you would work for a local paper or TV station and work your way up to retirement with a nice pension is behind us.’ / Wikimedia Commons

The news business is hurting as about 3,000 people have been laid off or been offered buyouts in the first five months of this year.

Newspapers owned by Gannett and McClatchy, digital media companies like BuzzFeed and Vice Media, and the cable news channel CNN have all shed employees according to a Bloomberg report.

The U.S. unemployment rate is at its lowest since 1969, but the journalism job market is in a tailspin, said Andrew Challenger, vice president of an outplacement and executive coaching firm.

“In most industries, employers can’t find enough people to fill the jobs they have open,” he said. “In news, it has been the opposite story. And it seems to have been accelerating.”

The journalism job hunt can be particularly challenging for those who don’t live on one of the coasts.

Last year, Emma Roller, 30, took a buyout after working as a politics writer for the website Splinter, which was part of Univision’s Gizmodo Media Group. She got married and moved from Washington to Chicago to be closer to family. But as she looked for a new job, she found many positions required that she live in New York, Washington or Los Angeles.

“All of media has become concentrated in three cities,” Roller, who now works part-time at an elementary school and as a barista at a coffee shop while freelancing, told Bloomberg. “I chose to move away from where journalism jobs are. But at the same time it’s a structural problem. No one becomes a journalist to get rich.”

In response to the massive transformation taking place in journalism due to those social media monopolies, professors from Rice University and Rutgers University conducted a new study, “Professionalizing Contingency: How Journalism Schools Adapt to Deprofessionalization.”

The study was authored by Max Besbris, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice, and Caitlin Petre, an assistant professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers.

“The post-Watergate media era where you would work for a local paper or TV station and work your way up to retirement with a nice pension is behind us,” Besbris said. “Now, papers are shutting down, news outlets are consolidating, and information is widely available on the Internet. We wanted to see how these drastic changes in media and media consumption over the past 20 years were impacting journalism education.”

Compared to fields with a well-defined career path, such as medical or engineering, journalism “is a less defined profession and you don’t need a license to practice. That’s an interesting aspect of this case. Master’s degrees are on the rise but more of them — including journalism degrees — don’t necessarily offer a clear path to a secure career,” Besbris said.

The authors found that journalism educators are “very aware” and sensitive to changes in the industry, according to a June 27 report by Rice University News & Media.

The majority of those educators who were interviewed for the study said “they accept the changes in the field as a reality and see no way of returning to old models,” the report said. “They also agreed that students must move away from thinking about journalism as a coherent career path and instead must accept the precarious nature of their jobs.”

Besbris noted that educators are “telling their students that they don’t have to, in fact shouldn’t, go work for traditional news organizations — they can do temporary, contract or freelance work, or work for non-news corporations, the government, NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) or almost any other place. For a long time journalism had been trying to cultivate the difference between journalism and PR (public relations), so it was really interesting to see this change in thinking, and hear individuals say that students should prepare to work as journalists in non-news organizations.”

Besbris also said most of the educators interviewed for the study stressed that students should be “as entrepreneurial as possible” and be willing to start their own businesses or websites. They encouraged students to not only become good writers or photojournalists, but also develop the skills to do just about anything from writing and editing to recording and designing.

“Many of these J-school professors are telling students to learn to hustle, be game for anything and even to celebrate the precariousness of the labor market,” Besbris said.

The social media ad monopolies and their censorship brigades are a major reason that market is so precarious.

Prager’s organization, Prager University, is not an accredited institution but creates videos which have accrued millions of views, discussing topics including gun ownership, gender politics and police brutality.

PragerU is a prime target for censorship from the social media giants who have taken it upon themselves to decide what is and isn’t important or appropriate.

Prager told “Fox & Friends” last week that Twitter and Spotify have banned PragerU from advertising on their sites, and that YouTube has put a number of the group’s videos on a “restricted” list.

“If it is pro-America, if it’s pro-Israel if it is pro-religion, it is likely to be censored by Google or YouTube,” Prager said. He added that a video he created about the Ten Commandments is on a “pornography restricted list” on YouTube.

PragerU provides a category of videos they claim have been restricted by YouTube, including “Gun Rights Are Women’s Rights,” “Born to Hate Jews,” and “Do Not Commit Adultery.”

Prager said that it’s not just conservative figures and websites who are being censored, it’s happening to those on the left as well.

“It happened to Ben Shapiro of Daily Wire,” he said. “Dave Rubin is a gay liberal they’re doing the same exact thing to him. They hate liberals and rightists,” he continued.

In a statement issued to Fox News, Twitter said: “The @PragerU Twitter Ads account is ineligible to advertise on the Twitter Ads platform due to repeated violation of our Twitter Ads policies. The account may, however, continue to tweet organically as long as it complies with the Twitter Rules.”

PragerU is currently engaged in a lawsuit against Google and YouTube, and accuses the tech sites of “continuing to unlawfully restrict and restrain speech and expression.” The non-profit has been in a legal battle against the companies since October 2017.

Bloomberg noted that “While tech giants are often blamed for the news industry’s financial troubles, they have also become a destination for journalists who want to leave the field. Amazon is hiring editors to cover local crime news for a division of its security-focused doorbell, Ring. Facebook, Apple, Snapchat and Google have all hired journalists in recent years to work on their media-related initiatives.”

Journalism schools say enrollment is up, despite the dark headlines about the industry, and they are adjusting their curriculum to prepare students for in-demand jobs. The University of Maryland expects 44 graduate journalism students this fall, up from 32 last year. The school has started requiring students take more audio reporting classes because “this generation seems to love podcasts,” said Lucy Dalglish, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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