If I've learned anything from 80's movies, it's that when something goes awry you can just put on a show and everything will turn out all right. Is an evil developer threatening to put a strip mall over your rec center? Then break dance your way out of debt and into our hearts. Is the orphanage closing? Then let's drive on a cross country trip to put on a big rythm and blues review.
What do you do when it's not just one place that's failing, but a whole institution?
A few months ago I was a succesful journalist, freshly out of college. Successful merely because I was employed according to the low bar for journalism graduates in the new millenium. I had started out in the business showing cowokers how to work their digital cameras and upload their videos to Youtube, I even pushed Twitter when it was still just something for the technorati because I had nothing better to do during meetings and the company wouldn't spring for EVDO for live-blogging from Town Meeting.
I suspect for many would-be young turks in the newsroom things are very much the same. Now when I look at jobs I see that people with three times the experience are applying for the same entry-level position, and that it's no longer a business where you pay your dues in weekly news and slowly climb the ladder until you're sitting pretty at the Washington Bureau of the Associated Press. It seems now that you're either birthed a rock star or you become destined to languish in obscurity.
Still, after more than a month of unemployment I'm restless. As much as I came to dislike my job, there was something appealing about the news business that I still miss.
So what to do?
I still say that we can put on a show. Is monetizing hard on the Internet? It sure as hell is, but with the right combination of old and new media sensibilities I'm sure that it's possible to attract an audience and build revenue. That's easy enough by creating killer content and keeping people coming back for more and not getting saddled with some of the same problems that burden newspapers (legacy debt from corporate consolidation, not to mention the costs of ink and paper).
So, what's the hole? Who is the audience and how do we make something happen?