Career Advice for Journalists: To Thine Own Franchise Be True
But crappy as that business may be, the journalists of the coming era will need to understand it better than their predecessors did to thrive in the workforce. "One of the great promises of journalism, in my view, is that we will have journalists who need to care about where audiences are and how they're going to reach those audiences and how to sustain themselves," said Geneva Overholser, director of the journalism school at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communications. "We become marketers."
Jeff Jarvis, the panel's moderator and director of the City University of New York Journalism School's interactive program, put a question to the crowd: "Does anyone in the room think we should not be teaching business to a journalist?" No hands went up. "That's a huge change from a few years ago," Jarvis said. "A gigantic change."
John Harris, co-founder of Politico.com, argued strongly that journalists who want to earn decent incomes need to start thinking of themselves as proprietors of their own businesses rather than as workers-for-hire. "The only way anyone's likely to have a career in journalism after about age 30 -- the only way you're going to have a life that's fun and that anyone's going to pay you for -- is creating a franchise," he said, citing Politico writers Mike Allen and Ben Smith as successful examples of this approach. "You need to focus on your distinctive impact."
"If you work hard and play by the rules, you're going to get screwed," Harris added. "You've got to build your own path."