I moved. The cheese stayed where it was. Now it doesn't return my calls.
May 9, 2012 10:20 AM   Subscribe

What should I do instead of online journalism?

A few years ago, I left a dream editor job with an online desk at a top foreign newspaper to set up in Canada. This is still absolutely the right decision for me, and being in this country has allowed me to do so many things I couldn't otherwise. I am going to stay here.

My job now is permanent with benefits, has light management responsibilities, and is comparatively well-rewarded. But in Canada I feel the media I work in – exclusively digital – is not taken seriously. People seem to think I make a living from being a blogger. The editors' and writers' associations here seem bewildered by the fact that things online might need to be spelled correctly, let alone people be paid fairly for ensuring that they are. And who would read a newspaper online, for heaven's sake? I realize I'm lucky, but it's devaluing to feel that other people think what you do has little worth.

More importantly, journalism's ground is shifting with every step and my job feels less than secure. In fact, that online job in my previous newspaper back home... no longer exists.

My discontent is likely something to do with the somewhat desperate and sweaty atmosphere at my workplace. I am eyeing the exit. But it's probably little different at any other media company.

I have put out feelers. I am not a natural networker, but I'm trying to talk to some contacts about other possibilities in the market. But... I am ready for another path as well. Continuing to be a digital editor has a raisin's worth of meaning for me, compared with the sacrifices that I already made – of being away from the city and the friends I grew up among.

So, I ask again: what should I do instead of online journalism?

Skills that I have:

* great wordpower and communications skills
* digital native; was raised as a teen by bulletin boards; programmed a computer when 8; can build websites up to PHP coding level
* a few years' overseeing and directing staff and copy workflow, though no line-management as such
* good skills in training people
* literature degree, journalism diploma

Things that matter to me
- being able to properly use my skills
- making a difference to people's lives in a way people care about, at least on an intellectual level
- not too evil
- money (can't forget the mortgage)

I welcome all suggestions regardless of position compared with box (inside, outside, straddling, etc.) I might consider some retraining but circumstances very much limit my free time, and I can't really just up and quit (mortgages are annoying like that).

I'm in Ontario, if it helps, and my work permit allows me free reign. Thank you kind people.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I was in your position several years ago, though I probably wasn't as high up on the totem pole as you are/were. I had to drop out because the pay was too low and the no one took the job very seriously, so it didn't make sense that I could barely make rent for a "career" that felt more like a dead end.

So I floated around for a couple years, wondering what the hell I was doing. I've finally settled on the idea of becoming a therapist. This means I'm going to grad school to get a masters in social work and ultimately become an LCSW/LMFT, as I hope to use the degree in a clinical setting as opposed to case work.

Like you, I value my intellect and ability to communicate coherently to an audience. I think this command also stems from an ability to see stories. People have stories just like events have stories, and it's a therapist's job to piece out narrative, motives, hidden agendas, submerged pasts, and so forth in order to make sense of a client's world and help them move into an emotionally healthier way of life.

Furthermore, the job isn't evil (this was a huge thing for me), the pay is pretty decent (and even though I have to go back to school, many MSW programs are cheap. ALWAYS pick a cheap MSW program over a pricey one), I can make a living in most mid- to large-scale cities, and the occupation isn't oppressively corporate.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:39 AM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm in online media in Ontario and I'm grinning a bit; what you're describing isn't how I would portray the whole atmosphere _at all_ but I'm reasonably sure I can guess which associations you're talking about. And the paid fairly is definitely a huge issue, but it's not just online.

What you do need to keep in mind about Canadian media is a) it's very, very small and b) the business end has caps. A really successful media outlet up here just will never have anything close to something like a big international media outlet because of the different sizes of the marketplaces (fewer economies of scale in terms of producing content), and the costs that come with more expensive telecom, the way advertisers can reach Canadian audiences via ads placed on US sites, the US media dominate the news-space for North America, etc. The CBC is no longer an exception, sigh.

So...if you're worried about prestige, I wouldn't worry so much. Network more. Have faith. MeMail me if you're in the GTA.

If you're worried about your job disappearing, then yes, I think we are in the midst of a shakedown. Non-profit or corporate communication might be a way to go. Also digital-focused ad agencies (depending on your definition of evil), PR and marketing. You could also start freelancing some corporate communications/editing and see where that leads you. For out-of-the-box ideas, what else in your life are you passionate about?
posted by Zen_warrior at 10:46 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might want to join the Online News Association and start some meetups in your area if you are not in Toronto.
posted by jgirl at 11:19 AM on May 9, 2012

Recovering journalist here: I went back to school and got a law degree (I do NOT advise this) but you should definitely look into zen_warrior's advice to look at corporate communications and non-profit.

If you've done any writing at all about local politics, you could look into being a press secretary or media relations rep for a local official. Also, I'm not sure how the Canadian structure works but here in the states, you can definitely leverage your skills being a spokesperson for the local school district or directing communication efforts to residents of a small city. Good luck.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 11:20 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you've done any writing at all about local politics, you could look into being a press secretary or media relations rep for a local official. Also, I'm not sure how the Canadian structure works but here in the states, you can definitely leverage your skills being a spokesperson for the local school district or directing communication efforts to residents of a small city.

Yeah, in your shoes I would be looking at things like communications/PR for more stable non-profits (eg, colleges and universities; large hospital groups; school systems; non-glamorous provincial agencies like the Department of Public Works, Social Services, government regulatory agencies). Also, depending on where you were abroad, are there any organizations like the Foreign Country Native-Canadian Association (ie, Chinese-Canadian, Greek-Canadian, whatever)? I think especially if you have a second language, you could be a valuable asset in PR/comm at that kind of an organization.

Do you have enough cultural knowledge of your former foreign home to do business etiquette training? (ie, teach Canadians about Country X, teach Xians about Canadian customs)
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:30 PM on May 9, 2012

I want to throw a vote in for marketing/corporate communications. I have a similar background but couldn't get into the business full time or make ends meet freelancing. I ended up in corporate marketing/communications, and I'm finding I get to use all the skills and talents of journalism, and I'm making about $10K more per year than I would had I become a reporter at one of the local business or trade outlets.
posted by OompaLoompa at 4:01 PM on May 9, 2012

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