As the long-predicted mediapocalypse finally takes hold, I find my annoyance level with the deathbed histrionics of many in the field — especially the journalists bemoaning their lost birthrights, way of life, etc. — rising. Here’s but one example from a movie critic suffering from the “when you’re being run over by a lorry, everything looks like a lorry” syndrome. Perhaps I spend too much time gazing into the media mirror, but the sheer volume and pathos of these pieces is on my last nerve.
Part of that is because it’s hard to feel sorry for the pig who built his house out of straw and got belligerent when one of his brothers tried to bring him some bricks. But a lot of it is because people in this trade (myself included) tend to succumb to the notion that because we are the storytellers, our stories are inherently the most interesting and important.
But as the dirges drone on; as the golden remembrance of things that didn’t really pass but we’d like to think did dominate the media — and they will for the next couple years — I find myself indignant that these muses of misery were largely silent when other members of our industry suffered the same fate.
In 1996, I made some side dough by teaching a digital media production class at a nearby community college. My class was made up almost entirely of strippers. No– not that kind. The people who had for ages taken the film output for printing and painstakingly aligned it into signatures so that it could be plated for the press. They were desperately trying to retrain, because digital production was quickly making their jobs obsolete. And these were not college-educated; media savvy folks who got to write and ask questions for a living. They were blue-collar men who had worked in a dangerous environment (many missing fingers from press mishaps) who were desperately trying to replace their most marketable skill on the south side of age fifty. They didn’t have industry blogs warning them daily that they needed to change or die. Many saw some new equipment come in one day and a few months later were told that their services were no longer required — not here; not at some alternate, but perhaps lower paying printing outfit with an up-and-coming but uncertain future. You, sir, are done. Period.
I spent most of the class teaching the basics of computer usage and did my best to instill enough interest and hope to get them back for an advanced class. But the skill of handwork and the skills required for digital prepress are distant cousins at best.
But nowhere at the time — certainly not in the volumes I’m seeing from the journos today — did I see a lament for the lost livelihood of these hardworking people. Was their loss of career, arguably more difficult and final than what’s being faced by most journos today, not worthy of remark or empathy?
I know that our business is in a trying time right now — And I am saddened by the disruption to the careers of many of my friends and colleagues. I’m also concerned about how important things don’t fall through the cracks as the Old Media is faltering and the New is not yet mature. But a little less “woe is me” might just make room for a little more news.
Note: I’ve recently become a fan of the blog Stuff Journalists Like, a different twist on…