Dark Days for Journalists Herald an Opportunity for Business Writers
These are dark days for Australia’s dying print media. This week Fairfax (SMH, The Age, Australian Financial Review) announced it will sack 125 journalists. In protest, Fairfax editorial staff decided to strike and not report on the 2017 federal budget.
This latest round of redundancies comes just four years after Fairfax axed 1900 jobs across the board and News Limited slashed hundreds of full-time positions. Newsrooms around the country are looking increasingly empty.
Why? Well, the advertising business model for newspapers is broken. For decades classified ads for houses, cars and jobs were newspapers’ cash cows. Now those ads and revenue have shifted to Google and Facebook.
To rub salt in to the wounds of journalists, Facebook announced record profits this week and will employ another 3,500 people.
Many of my former colleagues are no longer working as journalists. I jumped ship as a TV reporter about 15 years ago and became a lecturer and media trainer – coaching people how to handle interviews with journalists. I also run courses teaching business people how to write more effectively.
But is it all bad news?
When my journalism students at Macquarie Uni ask me, “Where will we get jobs?” I try to be positive. “The jobs you will have when you’re my age don’t exist yet.”
Good journalism skills can be extrapolated across a range of careers in communications.
With fewer journalists on staff, there are now more opportunities for freelance contributors to write content for papers and online. If you have expertise in a certain area and can write well, you have a better chance of being published now than ever before. You’re unlikely to get paid but you’ll be building your marketing platform.
However, even if you are a master in your field, no one will read your article if it is poorly written.
Not everyone can write well but you can learn.
Here are some tips for writing engaging copy like a journalist:
- Use plain English – no industry jargon or academic gobbledygook
- Use the active voice not passive -i.e. subject + verb + object
- Write short, sharp, snappy sentences
- Include relevant, accurate, interesting facts
- Write concise, clear, correct content
- Give concrete examples – avoid abstract concepts
- Quote reputable sources.