You’re taking the media for granted

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      The best career advice I’ve ever been given was doled out by a writer I barely knew and have never seen since.

      “If you can imagine yourself doing anything else instead, do that.”

      This was back in 2012; I was a fresh journalism school grad, and was (naively) ready to make my mark on an industry that was changing alarmingly fast. People were already consuming their news online instead of in print, and social media was swiftly morphing from a place to share photos of you and your friends looking hot at a party into a major source of news and information. Thanks to this change in reader behaviour and resulting loss of traditional advertising revenue, journalism jobs were not exactly in robust supply.

      That writer’s message to me was clear: this was not going to be easy, so I’d better fucking love it.

      I loved it back then and I love it now. But journalism jobs, for those of us lucky enough to land them, are rough terrain. I won’t say they’re Everest-level difficult—I mean, hell, we’re not doctors!—but they’re solidly in the realm of the West Coast Trail. (Google it. You will be spooked.)

      Pretty much the only feedback we get is negative, and it’s usually from people who seem to take a baffling amount of glee in saying mean things (you learn very early in this business to never. Read. The comments). Then there’s the pay, which certainly isn’t going to get folks closer to owning property, um, anywhere. Publicists (representatives hired by theatres, brands, restaurants, and other businesses to get their stories published in the media) are more demanding than ever; meanwhile, those same businesses’ marketing budgets continue to dwindle—or are being allocated exclusively for social platforms. Publications are chronically understaffed, but workloads continue to balloon. The fear of layoffs and closures is always present (anxiety—so chic!). And nobody outside of the industry seems to give a sweet little damn about any of it.

      I’m not asking for your sympathy here; all jobs are hard for their own reasons. What I’m asking for is your help. The media is a crucial part of any healthy community, and you’ve been taking it for granted.

      Newspapers and magazines create awareness, and awareness leads to more economic and cultural activity. When we publish stories about a cool new indie comedy show or the triumphant comeback of a local band, it’s because we genuinely believe they are worthy of your time, attention, and money. Nothing makes me happier than finding out that a total stranger went to a cafe, theatre production, or concert because they read about it in the Straight.

      It’s easy to judge from the outside. Lord knows I’ve done that many times, whether it’s critiquing a restaurant meal like I’m a goddamn Top Chef judge or passive-aggressively sighing because the lineup at the bank is taking too long and how could it be taking this long and what could the tellers still possibly be clackity-clacking away at on their computers??? So it’s worth remembering that journalism is, at its core, a human job. AI may be coming for us, but it’ll never replace us. There is no algorithm for creative and critical thought.

      I’m definitely not saying we get it right all of the time. We’ve messed up before and we’ll do it again, and it’s definitely fair to (respectfully!) criticize us when that happens.

      But I encourage you to think about everything that your media outlets do—not just for you, but for your wider communities. And to recognize that the health of journalism results directly in the health of cities and economies. When you support publications like the Straight, you’re not just supporting the publication itself—you’re supporting the cultural fabric of your home.

      So, sign up for a newsletter (and, by all that is holy, actually read it). Subscribe to a magazine or newspaper (digital subs are really affordable, people!). Share articles to your feeds and your group chats. Tell writers who you follow that they’re doing a good job every now and then. Encourage people with marketing budgets to spend with their local publications.

      We already do have some amazing partners and readers at the Straight who understand and believe in our vision. You know who you are, and I love you! I could kiss you! But the reality is, we need so much more. We rely on you just as much as you rely on us, and any editor who says otherwise is lying.

      Sometimes this job makes me want to dye my hair platinum and become a life coach (okay seriously, can someone please explain to me what a life coach is? Isn’t that just your parents?).

      But I keep at it because I see the value in what my industry does for the greater societal good. I keep at it because I still fucking love it. I keep at it because for me, there is nothing else.