In the eyes of most journalists, leaving journalism for marketing is selling out. The news culture emphasizes that journalism is an important public service, requiring dedication to a higher cause despite meager compensation. The people who become flacks simply can’t hack it.
To wit, here’s the half-joking message a buddy sent me when we left journalism for marketing: “You lazy bums. Journalism’s not supposed to be easy!”
Reality is more nuanced, of course. Journalists don’t understand marketing, so they resort to stereotyping it, when in reality it’s an incredibly diverse field. Journalism’s diverse, too, and while some it affects public policy, it’s simply a fact that much of it is only entertainment. And changing careers is often driven by multiple motivations, some of which are unique to that person’s circumstance.
For us, it was a mix of unique and universal motivators. Here are the reasons unique to me:
- The location. We’re in constant need of discovering new things, and we wanted to relocate to a major city with more culture than where we had been working. Philadelphia was the easiest option, but the career options were extremely limited, as the major print news media there was stuck in a downward spiral.
- The work. Journalism’s an incredibly fulfilling career in a number of ways, but newspapers have certain conventions that make the reporting and writing very formulaic. As mentioned above, we was ready and willing to try something new.
Then there are the universal motivators for leaving journalism. Here they are, as we experienced them:
- The future. It made no sense as a young professional to try and persevere in a tumultuous profession, or at least one with no certain future. Sure, if a viable new business model is solidified in the near future, we may jump back to journalism. But as the industry stands, it’s a perfectly wise decision to seek more stable employment with opportunities for growth.
- The money. Journalists work harder and make much less than marketers. Somehow, in the process of learning journalism, you’re subtly taught it’s OK to be part starving artist, part humanitarian, working twice as hard for half the compensation of your peers. We view that as supererogatory – something that should be praised if it’s done, but not criticized if it’s not done. We also think if people are purely seeking civic impact, there are probably more fruitful pursuits.
Fortunately, we’ve found our new careers to be very fulfilling. We’ve learned far more than we would have just staying in journalism, and trends in marketing are making it possible for former journalists to continue doing a lot of the same thing they always have been doing.
Unfortunately, there’s still far too little honest discussion of the changes happening in the media industry. Many students don’t know about job opportunities available to them, and current professionals are anxious about making career changes because of misperceptions.
Encouraging a more informed discussion is the purpose of this site. Indeed, that’s the purpose of journalism itself.
Good read Lee. Nothing about journalistic ethics? Hmmmm
Thanks Tony. That’s a post for another time, both about what I do miss from journalism, but also that journalists exaggerate their “Fourth Branch of Government” role. (You don’t get told in school that there’s A LOT of parade/weather/gas price stories mixed in with the few big watchdog reports.)