It is a scary prospect, actively choosing an industry that everyone claims is crumbling.
There is no clear path to be a journalist or a writer. It is not like becoming a doctor, where you get into college, join the pre-med program, take the MCAT, go to medical school, and become a doctor. The journalism world cannot even come to a consensus on whether or not graduate school for journalism is a worthy investment. It is an equally scary prospect to go into an industry whose veterans each have different and contradictory answers to the question, "How do you succeed in this business?"
One piece of advice does stand out, though. On a trip with the university newspaper to the New York Times building, Brian Stelter told our group of young reporters and editors to find something that nobody else was doing, or that nobody else was doing well, and do it the best. It was with this advice in mind that I decided to start La Jeune Politique.
There is something about journalism that keeps students intrigued and keeps young people flocking to school newspapers and unpaid writing internships instead of high-paying summer jobs at Goldman Sachs. If you ask these aspiring writers why they are pursuing an industry with a death sentence, most will answer, "Because it is not dying; it's just changing." They answer this way for two reasons: because we (I include myself in this group) truly believe it to be so, and because it had better be. If it is not, not only are our future livelihoods on the line, but so is the democratic world. We need journalists; there is a reason they call the media the fourth branch of government. It serves its own purpose in the system of checks and balances and gives people a voice.
The world needs journalists, but different kinds of journalists.
The realm of written reporting has caught on to one major trend of the future but has not quite figured out how to make it profitable: the Web. There is money to be made on the Web, but many journalistic institutions are struggling to make the switch. Meanwhile, others who were founded on the Web are finding new ways to make it work.
The second major trend is one that journalism powerhouses seem to be missing: globalization. Instead, it is going the opposite direction. Newspapers are abandoning the tradition of foreign correspondents. Only those publications covering financial news, or those magazines with extremely loyal and specific consumer bases, like The New Yorker, have the money to pay for correspondents abroad. Instead, while the distance across oceans has been minimized to the speed it takes to send an email, the world of journalism, trying to focus on an outdated business model, has turned inward. The focus has become increasingly local, perhaps with the idea that this is the way to expand a subscription base.
Although many things can be said about the new HBO show The Newsroom, it raises one question loud and clear: Should news have value outside ratings? The show centers around a team that takes on the ratings paradigm and aims to more legitimately cover political news and avoid the cliff of partisanism. However, the bigger issue may be one of scale. Now more than ever (not to say that news used to be the perfect industry, free from real hard business decisions), the content of the news is driven by what will sell to the masses.
This business model is over. This could be the death of print media as we know it. Instead of covering a few things well, major papers try to cover anything and everything that will bring them new subscribers, and in most cases they abandon covering what they used to do well.
International news coverage is pitiful in U.S. publications. We have never done international news well (a sad vestige of an isolationist mentality), but it has become dramatically worse over the last decade. We have pulled our writers from abroad and replaced them with the idea that we can just send reporters to crisis zones.
In the world of international journalism we have stopped looking for stories and started reacting to stories. This is ironic in an era when one country's decisions can have a domino effect on states and businesses across the world.
A few students, French and American, decided to take on the task of bridging this gap. After the French presidential election was shamefully covered in American publications (The Economist does not count; it is British, and it is a weekly), a small group of American students studying in Paris decided it was high time to try changing the way the media covered international political news. We put together a team of French and American writers and started a website called La Jeune Politique, or, in English, "Young Politics." We went out to cover the news in France in such a way that it could be accessible to English speakers. Why? In the words of The Newsroom's Sam Worthington, "because we decided to."
The goal is to cover the EU in total. The EU is too important a player to be ignored except in times of crisis. As our major ally and economic partner, European political and economic news deserves our attention. Contrary to popular belief, it will affect you, too. The Atlantic Ocean does not stand as a buffer anymore.
The founding team of La Jeune Politique sees the changing world of journalism not as a death threat but as an opportunity. While the rest of the world is talking about the lack of jobs, this most dedicated team of young people has decided to create their own.