Journalism doing fine — mass-media business models ailing

Mathew Ingram has a good point. Journalism is doing OK. That’s true despite the current fuss about certain bloggers here in New Zealand. Or possibly because of them.

While journalism is doing fine, journalists are not. When I arrived in New Zealand in 1987 the president of the Journalist’s Union told me there were more than 700 members working in Wellington. I doubt that number are working in New Zealand today.

What’s more, when I started as a journalist in the early 1980s, it was a well paid, prestigious job. Getting a job was tough, employers could pick from the cream of talent leaving schools, higher ed colleges and universities.

At that time I earned more than almost anyone else with my age and background, enough to buy a flat in London when I was just 23 and travel around the world in the same year. Today the hourly rate for most journalists is not far off the minimum wage. I know of journalists who work night jobs to pay the rent. A rank and file journalist in Auckland might earn $35,000 to $40,0000 . Incidentally that’s about what someone with the same skills would have made in 1987. Likewise, the freelance word rate hasn’t changed in 25 years.

How do I survive? Mainly by writing features and being paid by the word — writing enough words means long hours. I also write for business web sites and various business focused writing projects. If you need that kind of writing give me a call.

So yes, journalism is thriving as a form, but as a career it has gone backwards.