Media Adviser is an advice column from journalist and psychotherapist Rebekah Holt that offers insight on recurring media dramas and their related ethical dilemmas.
Q: I am a journalist in my early 40s and the pace of change in news and newsrooms is making me feel like a dinosaur. I can’t decide if the advances in tech are amazing or terrifying. Every news job advertised wants someone who can report/shoot/edit and build a bloody website. Is this normal mid life crisis material or more? HELP.
A: You remember that bit in the Wizard of Oz where the curtain is pulled back and you discover he isn’t a great and powerful man, just an elderly chap with microphone struggling to stay in charge? Well the news is going through that same curtain pull. Except behind the screen it’s a 23 year old presenter/reporter/producer/editor/influencer/etc who is also a dab hand at HTML.
If you had told me 15 years ago I could quite routinely do a live cross from my cell phone that wasn’t just audio but also vision, I would have said “that’s amazing” then puked — when I realised it meant I had no camera person.
Basically you are experiencing normal intergenerational dissonance but, unfortunately, you’re experiencing it at a time when news going through its biggest cultural change ever. Many newsrooms want you to be able to do many tasks now that would have been a seperate role previously and I have mixed feelings on if that strengthens our end product.
But news is still about the telling of stories clearly and often under duress. It requires the ability to analyse information, think critically and check facts while trying to ignore an emboldened comments section that is screaming Fake News at you.Telling stories and reporting news is risky and not only in war zones. We are particularly vulnerable in the new news environment.
When an educated news consuming adult slags off all journalists to me now I simultaneously think “what a dick” and remember Kim Wall who was murdered doing a seemingly innocuous story on an inventor last year. That was one moment when I allowed myself to think wistfully about a time when Wall would have had a camera person or photographer with her.
So it is an uncomfortable time to work in news because it is also a fascinating one. The main perk of the new technology is the access — we can go almost anywhere and get the stories out almost instantaneously. The democracy of that access is breathtaking, and the kids aren’t the gate keepers or the problem.
And the kids actually need you. Because what you have is far more editorial experience and institutional knowledge. So don’t fall into an us-and-them thinking pattern. Be generous and ask for the same generosity in return. Especially when you get a new phone that won’t sync.