Yesterday, The New York Times published “The Fall and Rise of Media” by David Carr. I am so happy that a well-respected writer, especially one from an older generation, took the time and effort to describe the realities and challenges that young people in media currently face.
I’m also happy that the Times decided to publish a piece about the entrepreneurial efforts of the unexperienced – I get the sense that most publications aren’t really interested in the struggles of young people trying to make and remake the world. For me, this article marks a turning point in the way we think about the media industry and its leadership. Carr writes:
Young men and women are still coming here to remake the world, they just won’t be stopping by the human resources department of Condé Nast to begin their ascent.
For every kid that I bump into who is wandering the media industry looking for an entrance that closed some time ago, I come across another who is a bundle of ideas, energy and technological mastery. The next wave is not just knocking on doors, but seeking to knock them down.
Somewhere down in the Flatiron, out in Brooklyn, over in Queens or up in Harlem, cabals of bright young things are watching all the disruption with more than an academic interest. Their tiny netbooks and iPhones, which serve as portals to the cloud, contain more informational firepower than entire newsrooms possessed just two decades ago. And they are ginning content from their audiences in the form of social media or finding ways of making ambient information more useful. They are jaded in the way youth requires, but have the confidence that is a gift of their age as well.
Ask any college student who wants to work at a magazine or newspaper how many unpaid internships they’ve done, how much time they’ve spent building their portfolios and pitching story ideas. Ask them how many times they’ve been rejected by editors and hiring managers. Ask a recent graduate what it’s like to scour the job postings on Mediabistro and Ed2010, apply to hundreds of jobs, and then never hear back from any of them. Ask these students and graduates what it’s like to learn that someone less talented or less hard-working got the job because that person knows someone who works at the company.
By chance, some of the most talented people never make it into the media machine. In this industry, you can work your ass off (for a very small paycheck) and be guaranteed nothing.
Writes Carr, “Historically, young women and men who sought to thrive in publishing made their way to Manhattan. Once there, they were told, they would work in marginal jobs for indifferent bosses doing mundane tasks and then one day, if they did all of that without whimper or complaint, they would magically be granted access to a gilded community, the large heaving engine of books, magazines and newspapers.”
Tell me: where is my magical access? I’m not going to sit around and wait for the gatekeeper to let me through the doors. Sure, I have a lot to learn about media and the publishing industry, and I respect the leaders who govern it, but I’m also going to do more than hope.
One day, I woke up and asked myself: why do I have to do it the traditional way? Why is this way the right way? Why can’t I strike out on my own and change things myself? What I’ve found in doing these things is a passion and love for media and writing that I’ve never before experienced. I might have to wait years, possibly forever, for someone to recognize my efforts and work. You can understand why Carr’s piece nearly moved me to tears. The unrecognized are finally getting some credit for their daring and boldness.
(Photo by cocoate.com)