How To Make Millions As A Journalist

Posted on January 3rd, by Michael Rosenblum in Journalism. 1 Comment

And why not???

I am writing today’s blog in conjunction with the Carnival of Journalism , Dave Cohn’s ongoing journalism project.
If you feel like participating, please do.

The issue I wanted to write about for some time is Journalism and Capitalism – or “Why We Can’t Seem To Make a Living”.

Jeff Jarvis, much to his credit, recently launched the Center for Entreprenurial Journalism at CUNY.  And bravo Jeff!
The world of journalism needs more thinking like this.

Alas, there is an instinctive aversion to the idea of making money amongst most  journalists.

On the heels of attending one of Jarvis’ classes in Entrepreneurial Journalism, I was so impressed, I went to see Nick Lemann, the Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, my alma mater, and a place I had taught for 8 years as an adjunct.

Lemann was aghast at my suggestion and practically physically recoiled.  This, alas, is all too typical for the ‘professional journalist’.  We instinctively associate making money with ‘evil’.  We like to investigate it. If someone is making a ton of money, then they must be doing something wrong.

“Follow the money” says Deep Throat to Woodward and Bernstein.

As a member of the generation that was inspired by Woodward and Bernstein, let me amend that.  “Follow the money, figure out what they are doing and how you can make even more”.

I like that one better.

Making money is no crime. In fact, it is the ulimate good. With money you can do stuff.  Without it, you are the perpetual victim and the perpetual employee, which is what most journalists are.  And that is crazy.

Listen, the Internet ‘happened’ to our industry first – the information industry.  That’s what the web was all about – the gathering and the processing and the distribution of information. That was and is our business.

So we should have been out there first, cleaning up.  We should own the web. But we don’t.  We let it get away from us because we never saw ourselves as Capitalist.  We let ourselves get pounded.

Craigslist, which pretty much eviscerated newspapers classifieds should have been developed and owned by us.
Google – all the news that fit to print – and a whole lot more – should have been developed and owned by us.
Youtube, Facebook, you name it.  We should be exploiting this mother for all she is worth.  But we don’t.

We are the perpetual groveling employees, beggaring for a few crumbs and generally seeing our jobs and incomes slashed as the web and new digital technologies roll over the old.

And why is that?
Why are we such schmucks?

It’s in our nature.  It’s in the image that we have made for ourselves.

“My job is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afficted” says Peter Finley Dunne.

Crap!, I say.  Crap.

Who came up with this idea?

What is the crime in making money? In making lots of it?

Anyone who became a journalist could just as easily have become a lawyer.

Lawyers work for the ‘good of mankind’, but they don’t seem to attach any stigma to making a lot of money.

And they’re equally happy to defend human rights and the Constitution and help the poor and a whole lot of other stuff without feeling like they have to live in perpetual poverty for the rest of their lives.

Look at how we present ourselves to the world.  Look at the image of the typical ‘journalist’ in the movies.

Russel Crowe, journalist in “State of Play”.

Look at him.

Drunken stumble bum.
Bad clothes
Bad haircut
Bad car
Crap life

And he’s the hero!!!

What is the matter with us???

Is this a guy who is going to Goldman Sachs for an IPO?
Is any Venture Capital firm going to invest in him??

Not a chance.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

And how do we tolerate the crap way we are treated by our ’employers’?
Bust your butt for The New York Times or NBC for 25 years and what do you get?
A luncheon!

Bust your butt for a NY law firm for 25 years and what do you get?
A partnership!

Do you see any journalists being offered partnerships in The New York Times Company???

We are a mess.
But we are not beyond redemption.
We can change.
We have to get our act together.

We have to embrace making money – lots and lots of money – as a good. As a goal.

We should arrange ourselves the way lawyers do, as limited partnerships.  Then some of the partners can carry on with their ‘investigative journalism’ while the others engage in more lucrative PR or Image Control and others launch web-related IPOs.

And instead of ‘working for’ the NY Times or NBC, we should simply license our work to them.  For a fee.

I read a lot about the ‘dire situation’ that journalism is facing, but to me, the only ‘dire situation’ is the way that we have chosen to arrange ourselves.

Journalists of the world, arise. You have nothing to lose.

Nothing at all, apparently.


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Every day Michael Rosenblum blogs about the latest developments in the world of video and the media as well as future trends in technology and equipment.

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