I’ve been a journalist for the best part of two decades. In that time not much has changed. And yet, so much has. The end product, a newspaper, is largely the same as it has always been, but the processes to produce it are not.
Over the years I’ve seen layers of skill stripped from the production of newspapers. Many of the jobs that were once critical to producing the daily news now no longer exist. Direct-to-plate printing completely removed the need for the artisans that used to prepare printing plates, digital imaging advances saw photographic scanners being retrenched, and desktop publishing turned layout and subbing into one job instead of two.
There’s no point in being nostalgic about these changes, but it’s worth considering that many of us in the media are living on borrowed time. How secure are our jobs?
The media is evolving quickly and over the next couple of years newsrooms will undergo massive changes, particularly as they become increasingly digital. As journalists we need to be adapting to these changes. Writers, subs and editors have (largely) been spared the upheaval so far, but how long before being a newspaper sub-editor is not good enough to keep us employed? The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade has for some time predicted the demise of subs and, as much as we don’t like the idea, we can’t bury our heads in the sand.
The trick in the coming years is for journalists to learn to be mutable, adaptable and ready to move with the changes coming their way.
Although Arnold King wasn’t speaking specifically about journalists, I think he summed the current situation rather well with his job seeker’s paradox:
The paradox is this. A job seeker is looking for something for a well-defined job. But the trend seems to be that if a job can be defined, it can be automated or outsourced.