We regret to announce the death of the media business as you know it. You can stop sending your half-baked résumés to the Express now.
I don’t mean to put you off, but some smart people had been warning us for years about these dark days of the U.S. media business.
When you hear local media conglomerates announcing increased profits, don’t think your future media career is assured.
Since 2009, advertising spending is down across the board. Much of that “profit” is the result of higher prices, cost-cutting and revenue spikes from one-time events such as an election campaign.
I’ll wager that T&T’s media managers swear by the old saying: “When yuh neighbour house on fire, wet yours.” They understand that the situation in the U.S. isn’t a passing cloud.
It’s more like a deadly virus that starts in a remote location and makes its way around the world. You know it’s just a matter of time before it lands in your newsroom.
Yes, watching a profitable business model slip away is that scary, though I concede it may be several years before we see major disruptions in the local media industry.
But it’s coming. As more and more ad revenue goes digital — mostly to Facebook for now — it won’t be business as usual and media execs will be nervous about their operations, including who they hire.
Want a future in the media business? Here are three tips to help you make the cut:
1. Beef Up Your Skills
I’m not just talking about writing and reporting (two very different things).
I’m talking about hardcore programming skills or a better-than-decent portfolio of Web projects you’ve worked on that will get your résumé a second look.
The convergence of print, TV and digital media means today’s hotshot is the journalist who can do it all. Or at the very least, do more.
Besides coding, you will want to embrace multimedia storytelling. Use your camera for something other than home videos. Learn how photos and sound can combine to tell stories.
2. Read Everything
What does a journalist need to know? I can’t stress enough the value of reading and why you must read every single day.
Read about business and the arts and science. Read about politics. And yes, read about the media business.
But you must not approach this reading lightly or give up reading once you graduate J-school.
No. Feed your brain daily and climb the pyramid of journalism competence, never getting to the point where you think you know everything.
Journalists need to know something about everything and should have the best research skills you can find on the planet. Get it done and you have a shot.
3. Go It Alone
That’s exactly what I mean. The only thing preventing you from building your own media company is you. The Caribbean needs more journalists to embrace media entrepreneurship. Seen any new ideas lately? Me neither.
Instead of waiting for a media job, maybe you should just create one. Or five.