Journalism is in a state of constant flux, thanks to the new demands placed on journalists and the environment we work in. We are already living in an era where our work is undervalued, where the budgets for what we do are constantly shrinking, where the world expects impossible things of us and then lashes back when we don’t deliver. But some of the most troubling changes are taking place in the newsroom, setting us up for failure before we even set foot in the outside world, creating an environment in which the nature of journalism is fundamentally shifted.
Some say that journalists who can’t adapt to these changes are dinosaurs who should be thrown out and replaced with the new, fresh-faced youth who can handle it, but this is a simplistic argument. It glosses over the fact that many of these demands are actually being unfairly placed on youth, who never have a chance to really develop as journalists. And it ignores the ignomities that the profession has forced on itself as stories become about grabby headlines, short commentaries – there is nothing deep and complex that’s taken seriously by large numbers of readers, viewers, and listeners.
Only true nerds listen to NPR, watch Frontline, actually read Foreign Affairs. In all other cases, newspapers and broadcast media feel like they’re on the decline, both because they’re playing to their audiences and because they’re underestimating their audiences, creating a vicious circle. This is especially acute in online journalism, which has become very much like a revolving cycle of recirculated stories.
Once, the positions of journalist, editor, copyeditor, photojournalist, and videographer were separate. They were viewed as individual skillsets, each with very different strengths, and, more critically, training. While they overlapped and got along with each other, and involved a high degree of interaction and cooperative work, they were, at the end of the day, separate. The journalist wrote the story, working with the editor on developing it. The editor further edited it, and the pair worked to make it the best story possible. The copyeditor took over, eradicating errors and bringing it into compliance with house style.
The photojournalist might shoot images to accompany the article, or could create an entirely independent image-driven piece, just like the videographer. When papers wanted multimedia packages, they hired separate individuals with the skills and training needed to deliver the best content possible. They knew that writing and taking photographs, for example, are very different skills, and involve different talents. Some people are great writers and photographers, but it’s a combination that isn’t all that common (though when it can be found, it should be treasured).
Today, journalists are expected to be everything. Their own writers, editors, copyeditors, photographers, videographers, producers. They need to be able to not just track down sources and conduct interviews, but perform all their own fact checking, to scrupulously copyedit their work (anyone who actually copyedits their work knows how difficult this is), to take and edit photo and video, to format it for publication. Today, that can require a knowledge of half a dozen programs, as well as HTML. Journalists need to be intimately familiar with house style (a working knowledge is a common expectation, but the level of detail needed for copyediting is not) as well as the quirks of a content management system.
Oh, and they have to file within a day, and often less. They’re doing the work of a half dozen people, easily, in a compressed time span, and yet they’re expected to deliver high-quality, error-free, compelling work. All those demands don’t leave very much time for actual journalism (which explains why so many stories become about piggybacking off other stories, because then at least some of the work is done for you).
I see a lot of people trashing journalists, and the work we do. Many of those people don’t seem to understand what the work we do actually is, and, moreover, have no comprehension of the demands placed on us in the newsroom. They don’t know how long it takes to produce an amazing piece of journalism (or even a decent one) and they don’t know how many people are involved behind the scenes.
You know how when you flip to the back of the book, there’s an acknowledgements section that feels like it’s a mile long? Truth be told, most journalism needs a section that large too – for example, when I write a piece for Bitch Magazine, first I work with Kjerstin Johnson or another one of the editorial staff. That starts with a pitch I send in, and a conversation about which direction we want to take the piece in and where I’m going with it. Sometimes this involves a prolonged discussion as we talk about the theme of the issue and how my piece would fit.
Then I have an extended period of time to write the piece. It’s my job to, well, write it, but also to seek out sources, conduct interviews, and document the process so the Bitch staff can conduct fact checks and stand behind my work, if necessary. Then I submit a draft to my editor. She and I take it back and forth a few times, working it out. Often, more than one editor weighs in with thoughts, suggestions, and concerns. This can take weeks, and requires a lot of work on both our parts.
Once I and the editors are happy with the piece, it goes to copyediting. The copyeditor doesn’t just look for grammar, spelling, and other style errors. She also consults Bitch’s in-house style guide to make sure my piece is in alignment. She has to know how things like em-dashes are used in the magazine, and she has to go over the piece with a fine-toothed comb for every detail. She may send me a query if I use a term that isn’t in the style guide – sometimes this involves me asking that it be left as is, sometimes I have to come up with an alternative, sometimes we work together to determine how to resolve a query. All of those queries have to be resolved before the piece can move forward.
When copyediting is done, the piece goes back to my editors and me for final approval. Once we sign off, it does to production, where someone with an entirely different skillset has to format it for publication. Other staffers make illustrations for the piece, edit my author photo, and make sure it looks perfect. At the same time, they’re also considering the whole magazine, making sure everything fits, filling spaces appropriately, looking at the layout aesthetic of each and every single page. Once everything is finally approved, it goes to press, which requires a skilled press team to produce plates (which have to be proofed and approved) which are then used to print the magazine – which is, in turn, bound.
These are just some of the steps that I know about, as a contributor, and there are many more behind the scenes. Scores of people are involved in the final article you see, and the same holds true for online journalism, for broadcast journalism. If you’re irritated with the state of journalism, it’s worth asking yourself whether you’re concerned about the elimination of positions from newsrooms nationwide, whether you think it’s a problem that journalists are forced to churn out pieces for publications that demand a high production rate, whether it worries you that journalists are supposed to be able to do 12 things at once. If you think these things are problems, how about you address those, rather than attacking journalists?
Image: Newseum newspaper headlines, m01229, Flickr.
Story tropes I find particularly delightful: I enjoy women being badass, guys being adorkable, people newly in love being Mr. Darcy-level awkward around each other, and people generally being sexy by being competent, clever, and sensible in their own ways. I like genfic, shipfic, love triangles solved by OT3s, team dynamics/interaction, character studies, complex plotty fic, bittersweet-to-happy endings, snark, fluff, angst, whump, experimental/metafiction, and clichefic that takes the cracky cliche and runs with it. Graphic consensual smut is always welcome but never required.
I don't like character-bashing, ship/het/slash-bashing, sexism, holiday-themed fic, MPREG, A/B/O AUs, major character death, characters out of character for the sake of plot, sexual assault, or graphic violence-to-the-point-of-gorn.
Now on to the fandoms!
( John Dies at the End, Discworld, Scarlet Spider, New Warriors, Mushishi, Secret Avengers )
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Alternate magical London, where old school friends the detective and the magician team up to solve a rather obvious murder, and resolve their mutual pining along the way.
Enjoyable, though lacking that special something. This made me think about genre. Which, believe me, is unusual – I have zero interest in the whole "but what does genre mean? Is it real?" thing. But here you have a blend of alternate history/fantasy with M/M romance. I started the summary above by writing "M/M" and then deleting it, because this is M/M in the literal sense, but not in the genre sense. Let me put this bluntly: there isn't enough erotica here for me to shelve it as M/M in the sense that I conceive of it in 2014.
What I mean is, this book reminds me of those times an author writes a book with a twist of fantasy or scifi, but because of which publishing house bought it and who the literary agent is, it gets packaged as "literature" and sold as "genre-bending" or what the fuck ever. All with the subliminal notion that yes, okay, this is using fantasy or scifi tropes, but it's not actually a fantasy novel, okay, it's better than that, it's actual literature. This book reminded me of that, except M/M is the thing it's not actually doing. By which I mean it dances up to the edges of the racier genre conventions, and then turns decorously away.
Not really fair, and I think what I'm seeing is the result of built in genre/marketing constraints rather than, say, authorial self-censorship. It's just funny, and a little uncomfortable, the way combining genres can make a work less effective or rich or nuanced, rather than more so.
Audio note: This production is by far the shoddiest I have ever encountered in commercial audio. I'm willing to bet they didn't bother with the final editing pass at all. There are skips, dropped words and sentences, repeats, background noise, you name it. Terrible.
View all my reviews
Thank you for your recent inquiry about hearing both sides. According to our records, this marks the fourth submission in as many days as to whether or not we have heard both sides. We regret to inform you that we have not.
On March the 2nd, you interrupted a conversation by asking “In fairness, have you heard both sides?”
On April the 13th, you spoke over a work acquaintance, reminding her that “We can’t actually form an opinion about this until we’ve heard both sides.”
While in an ideal world perhaps we would listen to all sides, the volume of requests we receive on a daily basis makes this impossible. We have decided to move ahead with our lives without hearing from your side. It is with very sincere regret that we must inform you we will not be listening to both sides, and have no plans to listen to both sides in the future. Just the one side will have to do.
You may find it a comfort to know that we are very familiar with the side in question. We remain entirely confident in this side’s ability to make itself heard, and wish nothing but the best for your side’s listeners in the future.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.
And how the actual hell did I get 500 followers? Who are you people? Who sent you? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?
I understand it’s customary to mark this kind of occasion by giving away a selection of prizes, so I put together a selection of
trivial symbolic gesturesstuff y’all might enjoy:
- a sample tin of my Lady Hawkguy tea blend (link) from Adagio.com (link)
- a handmade bottle cap necklace, magnet, or earrings featuring a character/symbol of your choice
- a mystery bag of comics. What’s in it? Who knows. I don’t know. Maybe a trade. Maybe just a bunch of Batman.***
- a 1k story of your choice by me. Any characters, any rating, any prompt. Can be fic, original, meta, a series of sonnets*, whatever you want.
Four prizes, four winners. Are those prizes really cheap and total cop-outs? Definitely. Believe me, if I could, I would give all 500 of you a big hug, a box of candy, and free comics for life, but alas, the most I can offer is some tokens of appreciation and pictures of my cat.
You get one entry each for:
- liking this post
- reblogging this post
- following this stupid blog**
You might get a bonus entry for messages telling me how great I am. No promises. But you might.
The deadline for entry is November 1, because we attach meaning to particular days based on the numbers assigned to them in an inefficient calendar system. I’ll cut off the contest at midnight CST. Winners will be contacted by November 2 and asked to choose their prize. First to respond gets first pick. Fair? Fair.
Okay, I’m done now. We now return to your regularly scheduled blogging.
*Please don’t ask me to write a series of sonnets. That can only end in chaos.
**If you’re already following, you get an automatic extra entry.
ETA: ***It will not be Batman.
Then I actually tried to get some shoes.
Really, I should have started this hunt way sooner — and with that in mind, I’m going to continue the hunt, because the shoes I bought for my immediate purpose meet basically none of my initial criteria. The heels are too high, they have no padding, they have no arch support. They’re just the best I was able to obtain on short notice. The shoes I found that might have worked weren’t available in my size, or couldn’t be obtained in time (one site has no shipping option faster than 10 business days — wtf). But this rant is about something bigger.
This rant is about the dress shoe industry basically telling me to go to hell.
ME: I would like a pair of heels that are not an ergonomic disaster.
INDUSTRY: I suppose I can help you. Here, have a small selection of shoes with padding and arch support and heels of less than two inches. They are very suitable to wear to work.
ME: No, I need something dressy. Evening wear shoes, not business shoes.
INDUSTRY: Oooh! We have those! You can enjoy a wide selection of beautifully designed platforms and wedges and stilettos, with heels ranging from three inches up.
ME: Did you forget my first criteria? I want dressy shoes without insanely high heels.
INDUSTRY: Three inches isn’t insane.
ME: Yes, it is. Look, I don’t want to argue; just give me the kind of shoe I’m looking for.
INDUSTRY: They don’t exist.
ME: What? Why not?
INDUSTRY: Because fuck you, that’s why. If you want to look fancy, then you have to pay the price. You have to be unstable, incapable of walking quickly, and in pain by the end of the evening. Those are the rules.
There are exceptions — a very, very, very small number of them, in the grand scheme of things. But on the whole, the dress shoe industry is flat-out uninterested in letting women look nice and take care of their feet. The shoes that are comfortable are also sensible, in the aesthetic meaning of that word. Even though there’s no reason you can’t design an attractively strappy shoe with a heel of, say, an inch and a half. Even though there’s no reason you can’t build a small amount of padding into the sole of something other than a sedate pump. We live in a world where anything less than two and a half inches is a “low heel,” and the three-inch mark is treated as the median. Never mind the detrimental health effects of wearing shoes like that on a regular basis: as a woman, you can wear good shoes, or you can look nice, but you can’t do both at once. (And god help you if you decide to flip the bird to the notion of “looking nice.”)
Ten minutes at DSW and I wanted to light the entire dress shoe section on fire. I ended up walking out with a pair of not-too-expensive heels that have no padding or arch support, but do unexpectedly offer ankle support — not by intent, I imagine, but simply because they have a decorative bit that laces up. These are not the shoes I want; they are not the dressy black heels I can wear with many outfits for the next ten years. I’m going to have to keep searching for those. But I can’t say I’m very enthusiastic about the hunt, because the industry has zero interest in providing me with what I want.