Sunday, March 08, 2009

Be Your Own Medici, or Mrs. Robinson Saves the Republic

CougarImage by digitalART2 via Flickr

Talking yesterday with the indestructible G., who is typical of our successful USF journalism grads in the sense that he was a self-starter, finding internships, cultivating would-be employers, working like a dog at successive internships and jobs, in short, taking the rough map sketched on the back of the napkin and venturing out into the unknown, brave and bold.

Or, to put it another way, we are not a big journalism program. We don't manufacture journalists, though I think we are pretty good at "enabling" those who already know what they want to be.

And, in fact, enabling is a pretty good word, suggesting as it does that a career in journalism is a kind of addiction. Which it is. And now a technological and financial climate change has reduced the supply of stuff, as it were. Where do you get your job, i.e., your work-as -fix, as news organizations crumble?

So I'm talking to G.

Turns out he and an acquaintance were talking about the plight of the young journalist today, about how innovative economic models for paying reporters to go get the news may yet emerge, but that, at best, for some time to come journalists both young and old will continue getting dumped into a trough of non- or under-employment.

That's best case. Let us hope this bleak abyss is merely the perigee of what will prove to be a sharp "V" of collapse and recovery, and that after a brief season of famine, new jobs will emerge, and once more this rag-tag army of vagrant journalists will have work-with-a-paycheck, doing what they love to do.

But meantime -- even if the future is brighter than it looks -- times will be tough. As I said: That's best case.

Well, G's acquaintance suggested that perhaps it's time for you (G, smiling and being smiled at) to find your own foundation support, as it were, your own "non-profit" sponsor. It's time you found yourself your own personal Cougar, she said, to collaborate in this great enterprise of news gathering during these hard times so that you can continue to do the reporting you love and the nation needs and thus help preserve the democracy, as journalism is supposed to do.

This giver of advice being herself a Cougar, G. noted, for he has the reporter's sharp focus on relevant detail.

To which I can only say: Every art must have its patrons. Same as it ever was.


Jerry in Arkansas said...

This smacks of ageism and sexism. And you know how the academy loves a lawsuit.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

No no no. Young can underwrite old. Men can sponsor women. Same sex sponsorship is fine. My God, it can all be high-minded and sexless.

Pardon me.