Thursday, January 7, 2010


Articles that deserve further commentary from me, but due to my lack of focus will just be getting the props.

As a follow-up to my teacher post a few weeks ago, this top-emailed article on teaching as a second career for those in midlife (something I might do myself in thirty years) brings me back to wondering how plentiful these teaching jobs are. In theory, programs like this are great. But is there competition between new young teachers and new older teachers? Do the programs stack up? With so many different routes to becoming a teacher, what's the best way? Can these things even be quantified? Malcolm Gladwell argued for a whole new way to evaluate teachers in a well-known piece in the New Yorker, a contradictory argument that seems very difficult to put into practice. I'm still just as lost about teacher trouble as I ever was, but teaching seems a great second or third career, and I am all for good programs that can provide this service.

CareerCast listed its top jobs for 2010, ranking them on salary, stress, work environment, and job outlook. Media jobs uniformly did poorly, though there were a lot of questionable top choices: historian? philosopher? Anthropology did well, though I have a sneaking suspicion that those who hold that degree don’t feel so secure. A lot of jobs seemed to be low-level, ones that may not require a college diploma, like cosmetologist, waiter, and typist. (Who the hell is a typist now? It’s administrative assistant, though that category is filled by “receptionist.”) There wasn’t a lot of amorphous jobs, those tricky titles or stuff like “venture capitalist” or “hedge fund manager”, where you really wonder what the person does, or jobs where you wonder what a MS in environmental engineering will do. I was very amused by PR executives having the seventh most stressful job out of the ones listed (#193 out of 200).

Must-read on how writers are losing their monetary value. Very sad and scary, like a lot of other stories about the profession:
What's sailing away, a decade into the 21st century, is the common conception that writing is a profession -- or at least a skilled craft that should come not only with psychic rewards but with something resembling a living wage.


The crumbling pay scales have not only hollowed out household budgets but accompanied a pervasive shift in journalism toward shorter stories, frothier subjects and an increasing emphasis on fast, rather than thorough.

The rank of stories unwritten -- like most errors of omission -- is hard to conceive. Even those inside journalism can only guess at what stories they might have paid for, if they had more money.

Media analyst and former newspaper editor Alan Mutter worried last month about the ongoing "journicide" -- the loss of much of a generation of professional journalists who turn to other professions.

Writers say they see stories getting shorter and the reporting that goes into some of them getting thinner.

A former staff writer for a national magazine told me that she has been disturbed not only by low fees (one site offered her $100 for an 800-word essay) but by the way some website editors accept "reporting" that really amounts to reworking previously published material. That's known in the trade as a "clip job" and on the Web as a "write around."

"The definition of reportage has become really loose," said the writer, also a book author, who didn't want to be named for fear of alienating employers. "In this economy, everyone is afraid to turn down any work and it has created this march to the bottom."
I try not to patronize websites that are purveyors of what I call the "rewrite." There's a difference between commentary (Gawker) and straight-up rehash of news, and I want the real stuff. But I wonder about all the many young people who can't get into journalism now, as they are picked up by related professions, the social media world, or the great swath of unemployment. You can't have more and more PR professionals and fewer and fewer journalists; who will report the news?

On media predictions in 2010: Besides that Apple Tablet that’s taking up far too much speculation, there’s the sense that a lot of news outlets will start charging. As a Times print subscriber, I might be safe for that dear site, but this will mean big changes to anyone who consumes news on a regular basis, and don’t think you can circumvent it with Google News. It might even mean the end of such necessities as Hulu, too.

How the other half lives
: I would only ever watch these programs out of sheer curiosity. Excellent moneymaker, just not my cup o' tea.

Peggy Noonan’s excellent column from December, on the cultural split she terms “The Adam Lambert Problem”:
America is good at making practical compromises, and one of the compromises we've made in the area of arts and entertainment is captured in the words "We don't care what you do in New York." That was said to me years ago by a social conservative who was explaining that he and his friends don't wish to impose their cultural sensibilities on a city that is uninterested in them, and that the city, in turn, shouldn't impose its cultural sensibilities on them. He was speaking metaphorically; "New York" meant "wherever the cultural left happily lives."

For years now, without anyone declaring it or even noticing it, we've had a compromise on television. Do you want, or will you allow into your home, dramas and comedies that, however good or bad, are graphically violent, highly sexualized, or reflective of cultural messages that you believe may be destructive? Fine, get cable. Pay for it. Buy your premium package, it's your money, spend it as you like.

But increasingly people feel at the mercy of the Adam Lamberts, who of course view themselves, when criticized, as victims of prudery and closed-mindedness. America is not prudish or closed-minded, it is exhausted. It cannot be exaggerated, how much Americans feel besieged by the culture of their own country, and to what lengths they have to go to protect their children from it.

It's things like this, every bit as much as taxes and spending, that leave people feeling jarred and dismayed, and worried about the future of their country.

All these things—plus Wall Street and Washington and the general sense that most of our great institutions have forgotten their essential mission—add up and produce a fear that the biggest deterioration in America isn't economic but something else, something more characterological.
And finally, the XX Factor’s take on this New York Observer article on American women dating Canadian and European guys:
But contrary to the "Own me! Own me!" view of commitment, all of the New York women I know lingering in lasting long-term but nonconjugal unions are doing so because they're not ready to get married, not because they're anxiously biding time until their boyfriends decide to pop the question.

It'd be nice to see an article that depicts women as the well-rounded, rational beings that they are. You know, people who have multidimensional thoughts about marriage and don't morph into rom-com cliches the minute the word is dangled before their faces. I'm not the only one who finds the prospect of marrying someone you've known for three months, let alone someone you met at a bus depot, totally terrifying. So why am I always reading about it like it's some sort of female fantasy come true? Besides, most of the ladies interviewed for this article are only 25, 26, 27 years old. How much terrible dating could they have endured?
The key difference seems to be rooted in economics:
When we talk about dating or the possibility of having family, with a man or on our own or with—gasp!—a coven of like-minded women (why not?), the conversation is framed entirely by the fact that we can count on our native countries to look after us should we—for whatever reason—not be able to make ends meet stateside. Now, we should be able to secure decent futures for ourselves, with or without male partners…


The calculus of long-term committment [sic] is just different when your country guarantees the basic necessities of an advanced civilization. When your government provides you, as they do in Canada and in Europe, with health care that is unlinked to a job or "productivity," subsidized prescription drugs, child care, free education through graduate school, and, finally, old-age pensions with visiting nurses if you need them to retain your health and a modicum of dignity. Marriage, ultimately, is about family, however you shape it. I sometimes don't blame men here for being lame or commitment-phobic. They're probably terrified of failing as providers or co-providers.
My biggest peeve with the first criticism is that the New York Observer piece is ostensibly about New York men. Like Sex and the City, they are dealing with a very specific demographic, one that might get overblown. New York men are known to be a different breed than men from the rest of the country, and they get married later than their peers from outside the area, just like the women. Sure, plenty of women complain about commitment-phobic men, but you can make the same case that there are plenty of women who feel the same. After all, I’ve known a few couples where it was the men who wanted to settle down first, but it was the women who felt that marrying young would hold them back. Now that we have longer lives and a life that is fundamentally, on all levels, less secure, why should we make major decisions that can lock us in for what seems like eternity?


Elizabeth said...

oh, goodness, that journalism article is depressing.

MediaMaven said...

Very few articles about journalism aren't depressing now, sadly. The profession practically has a negative adjective attached to it.