Journalism Jobs: A Story of Adaptation

This week, the Tampa Tribune abruptly closed after 121 years in the Tampa Bay area. Although I haven’t lived there for over two years, I’m sad to see it go, and I’m definitely not the only one. Readers and workers will miss this institution dearly.

Twenty years before the Tribune closed, I emerged from the University of South Florida with a journalism degree. The program was going strong although as a country, we were already starting to see the effects of media consolidation and the changing business model of the newspaper. I was a daily reader then, checking out Calvin and Hobbes first (of course) and then reading up on the headlines, opinions, columns, and local events.

My journalistic employment ended up being peripheral. I freelanced and took a temporary news research job here or there while I looked for full-time employment. Once I found a writing job, it was geared more toward business and less toward features, which were my favorite things to write. That lasted for six years, and I was able to pay off debts and save money for a new adventure, so there was a benefit to having my creative time outside of work time. Aside from occasional magazine and newspaper articles, I’ve done technical or business writing ever since. Fiction writing remains a great hobby, too.

Similarly, the dozens of journalists I knew (or knew of) back in the day have moved on to tangential careers. Some do marketing, others do technical writing and editing, some do instructional design, and others have made leaps into other industries, learning computer systems or becoming visual artists or whatever. I’ve seen this slow attrition over 20 years.

It says a lot about my generation’s resiliency. Newspaper work is one of several areas in which major changes have taken place in the last 30 years, and from what I see among my peers, we’re obviously up to the challenge. Adaptation is the name of the Generation X game. I worry more about the workers in their older years who don’t know what other options they have as far as work goes, or where to find them. I’ve seen fear in more than one coworker’s eyes when layoffs or cutbacks have been announced, and I’ve seen people band together, refer each other to recruiters, support each others’ transitions, and shine as incredible references as a team, department, or company disbands. I’ve had that fear in my own eyes a time or two, and it’s been quite motivational.

Here’s my take on this ever-changing industry, and more like it:

We want to learn and grow throughout life; this is what drew us to journalism and writing in the first place. Perhaps we visualized different futures for ourselves that ran along the traditional routes, routes which are no longer available, but it seems to me that we journalism students envisioned futures with a lot to learn. 

We got what we asked for! Throughout our careers, we’ve been able to reinvent ourselves over and over!

Best wishes to those who abruptly lost their jobs this week at the Tribune. I hope they are not discouraged. We’ve seen this before, and we’ll see it again. We know how things may develop. New opportunities will unfold, taking displaced workers onto new paths that they might not have explored otherwise. New connections will be made. Knowledge will increase. Some might get to move to a different place and expand their life experiences too.

One hippie carry-over saying that I learned from some Gen Xers years ago was, “It’s all good.” Having been branded as the slacker generation by the Boomers, and then getting a front-row seat to the workplace changes that tossed us around in our twenties, we Gen Xers knew at an early age that we couldn’t take anything too seriously. And managing this type of change is just one of those things.

 

 

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