Is journalism dying? It is a question worth asking as traditional media outlets grapple with savage financial cutbacks, and it also warrants the airing of a few home truths about our very own football media.
Though it’s hardly the main football story of the week – what with the Socceroos taking on Brazil and Harry Kewell being named as club captain of Melbourne Heart – there was nevertheless an interesting stoush between The Roar’s own Joe Gorman and The Age’s veteran football journalist Michael Lynch on Twitter during the week.
It seemed to start, as far as I can tell, when Lynch took umbrage at a fairly innocuous Tweet from Bonita Mersiades advertising her new Australian Football news aggregator, which prompted Gorman to aim several stinging barbs at Lynch.
Anyone who knows ‘Lynchy’ knows his quips are par for the course – he is, if nothing else, a vociferous proponent of the art of traditional news media.
Rare is the occasion when he doesn’t aim a wry “just another blogger” or “media tourist” quip at an unsuspecting newcomer to the press box, and given that his livelihood is currently under siege, it’s not hard to see why.
Though I don’t know him particularly well, I’ve got a lot of time for Lynch. He’s one of the most respected football journalists in the country and I make a point of reading his reports.
He also gave me the best career advice I’ve received to date.
Midway through writing an academic treatise, I said to him, “Lynchy, what would you do if you were in my shoes?”
“Find a copywriting job at a company that can afford to send you overseas,” he replied. “The money’s not worth it in print journalism.”
After a stressful near-12-month stint as a casual on the sports desk at a major online news outlet – the instability of which contributed directly to my marriage breakdown – I decided to take him up on his advice.
Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the crux of the matter.
Unless you’re on staff at a major metropolitan newspaper, there is next to no money in writing about football.
To put it bluntly, I’ve earned as much in one year in my current job as I did in about five years writing freelance football articles for whatever publication would accept them.
Which can be frustrating as a person who holds degrees in History and Journalism, is bi-lingual, possesses a working knowledge of Asian football and has experience in the field.
However, the commercial reality is that newspaper advertising rates have crashed and the horse bolted long ago when it comes to monetising internet content that most readers expect for free and are unwilling to pay for.
Is journalism dying? Maybe not, but jobs in the industry are thin on the ground.
It’s led to the term “blogger” being bandied about as a pejorative term to denigrate those not working in traditional media and in many respects, I understand the sentiment.
My favourite Aussie journos – Lynch, Marco Monteverde, Ray Gatt, Phil Lutton – have all spent years building their contacts, writing to deadlines and sniffing out scoops for a mainstream newspaper audience.
Their efforts have not only been hindered by the increasing use of media department spin, they’ve also been undermined by the proliferation of niche blogs – many of which, I should stress, serve their purpose.
I’m grateful to The Roar for this paid platform, though I’m often bemused at being criticised for airing my opinion in what is, quite obviously, an opinion column.
There are arguably better writers than me putting in more effort to various blogs out there, though I’m fearful they’ll burn out once the rent cheques start coming in.
So what is one of the key differences between a journalist and a blogger in this day and age?
A living wage.