Over on the Los Angeles Times’ On The Media column, James Rainey has a long list of the ills befalling creative people – not just us photographers, but writers, graphic artists, musicians and even architects. He talks about outsourcing and cheap stock libraries, too.
Which is great, and it’s all true. And, in my opinion, it’s a totally useless piece that just wastes photons and is symbolic of why journalism is in such trouble right now.
Go read it. Then tell me how it made your life better. Did you learn anything new from it? Did it help you connect any dots? Make your life better? Offer up any solutions? Give good examples of people who are surviving? (To the last question, yes – one guy who did corporate event work is now shooting rodeos. Thanks.)
Journalism’s greatest failure in the last few decades has been it’s loss of relevance in our day to day lives. When your newspaper subscription runs out and you don’t even notice, that’s bad. That’s really bad. When you can read a couple hundred words about what the city council talked about last night and not know how it might affect you, that’s just a travesty. And it lays the groundwork for the erosion of our democracy, as well.
So as to not become just like them, here’s my recommendation for journalism, the same one I’ve made over and over again: MAKE IT RELEVANT. Make sure your readers feel they have to know about whatever you’re writing about. Make the connection for them, put your stories in context. It’s not about the city council meeting, it’s about the effect of increased parking rates your readers will pay when they shop downtown.
Carry this over to everything else. Raines talks about sunsets. Great, you want to shoot travel and do sunsets? Go do it. But do SPECIFIC sunsets. Do sunsets no one else does so when they write about the sunset over some specific building on the island of Yap, you’re the only one who has that. And you can charge them accordingly.
At the end of each semester, in my congratulations-you’re-out-of-here lecture, I plead with my students to not be average. I’ll do the same with all journalists, all creatives – don’t be average. Be specific. Be relevant.