I get asked all sorts of questions by clients, friends, and avid readers of my Edit This blog. I've never considered sharing them before, but below is one that was texted to me from a good friend who is in the struggling newspaper industry.
I ask myself that question every day, man. Job instability is the nature of the business right now. Print readership is declining and papers are closing – or downsizing – all over the country. Journalists who got into this business long before we ever did are being ushered out the door at an alarming rate.
I've been in newspapers for 20 years and I have people close to me telling me to get out and focus strictly on Edit This. "Newspapers are dying," they say.
Do I think you will be flipping burgers at Burger King in 5 years? No. I think you will be fine. But being a journalist, especially a newspaper guy, will look and feel different than it does right now. You need to be prepared as a writer to adapt to whatever comes next.
Here are a few tips to ensure you put yourself in the best possible position:
Welcome sweeping change with open arms – Newspaper officials across the country aren’t sure how to respond to the challenges they face, so they'll try different ideas to keep readers interested and get the news out faster (shorter stories, web-only content, social media). Be open to that and the possibility of your role changing. That alone will give you a competitive edge.
Keep writing about everything you can – I've said this in previous blogs, but what has made me a more effective writer is my willingness to write about any topic (news, sports, human interest pieces). I've written for newspapers, magazines, business owners, and more. Writing in all these different ways shows your range as a writer, and you become a better writer because of it. You want people to see you as a multi-dimensional writer, which will bring more work your direction.
Never say "no" to an assignment – If you don't take the assignment, then someone else will and you'll never know if that one story could have been your big break.
Make yourself indispensable – There's a saying that everyone can be replaced. But my philosophy is to make that decision hard on upper management by taking extra assignments, learning from veterans around you, pushing for more responsibility, and even acting as a mentor to younger writers. Who wants to let a guy like that go?
Diversify yourself – I am a newspaper guy. I'm also a business owner. If the crap were to hit the fan with my newspaper career, I am confident I would pick up the pieces faster because of how successful Edit This has become. There are freelance gigs out there, and there are ways to get involved in the initiatives your newspaper is doing (i.e. social media, video, web layout). Learn all of that.
If all else fails, remember you are a writer for life – No one can ever stop you from writing. If you adhere to everything I said above, you will be that much more valuable.
I hope that answers your question.
*STEVE GAMEL is the Owner/President of Edit This, a writing and editing services company located in Denton, TX. Along with being a sports writer for the Denton Record-Chronicle, Steve handles anything involving the written word. Give him a call today to help give your business a clear voice.