He called himself the “Taxiwriter,” the driver of the cab I was in. I was on my way to the Newsweek offices, where I was interning in the fall of 2010, and started chatting with the cab driver. He had majored in Journalism and had written a book, while working at a variety of publications. He had begun driving a taxi to pay rent, and he intended on continuing to look for a job at another publication before starting his second book. The only thing I could think while nodding and smiling at him was, “Is this where I’m going to end up?”
Less than a year later, Newsweek’s sister company, The Daily Beast, which probably employs a considerable amount of journalists itself, concluded, that, according to starting and mid-career salaries, number of jobs and jobs available in 2008-2012, journalism is the number one most useless major for college students. Reading this after emerging considerably bruised out of a six-month period of job-hunting, I physically cringed. Ouch.
Yes, newsrooms are going through cutbacks. The journalists I know with actual jobs are being spread way too thin by harried editors. Everyone’s annoyed with bloggers and Arianna Huffington. But we are in a state of transition. Journalism is not a dying field, it is a developing field.
If you look only at journalist salaries and newspaper consumption in the U.S., you would have full reason to believe that Americans have stopped reading the news completely. Obviously, this would be highly inaccurate. A Pew Research Center survey found that nearly half of all American adults get their local news and information from a mobile device. Indeed, the first thing I do when I wake up (while I am still in bed), after checking my email on my phone, is open up my New York Times for Android app on my phone. I may just be a nerd, but I feel like I am probably not the only one.
The last few years have been tough for aspiring journalists, but no one said pursuing a career in journalism would be easy. The past year has seen some of the silver lining that has to be around here somewhere: Yahoo! and AOL Patch have been hiring. The New York Times has been able to install a paywall to encourage very regular readers to subscribe to the paper. Everyone and their mother has a website. When (notice I’m using “when” and not “if”) publications figure out how to monetize the web, besides using ads, journalism will lose its “useless” label. We are bleeding less this year, and will hopefully be able to nurse the industry back to health.
Meanwhile, my advice to aspiring journalists is to go ahead and major in journalism, if it’s something you’re interested in. Just make sure you major in something else, too. Or just know how to drive a cab.