Who’s Afraid of Media?

Sometimes things are written, edited, and published. Photo by Dan Counsell on Unsplash

A jumble of similar sounding words with facsimilic tones. Their last days are today, April 7. With their leavings are the dissolution of what they built. How fitting that on the near-anniversary of the pandemic’s beginning in the U.S., after which newsrooms did what they do in times of economic crisis. Layoffs. Cuts to freelance budgets. Email appeals to subscribers. The ending of Medium publications, precipitated by a violent affront to the workers’ unionizing effort, is possibly the only consistent part of media: its endings.

So one year after the pandemic’s rooting in the U.S. (and our government’s dedication to our failing infrastructure, not so much that they’re predisposed to the act of failing, more that they were never intended to succeed — I define success as supporting people) media workers saw more cuts to the industry, further disinvestment in the structures that allow us to do our work and contribute society in ways that we’re wont to.

It’s an obvious tautology with untold consequences: fewer media outlets mean fewer media outlets. More reporters for fewer jobs. More people, young, talented, hopeful and eager dissuaded from joining industry ranks. And, concerningly, the natural-seeming evolution of a platform like Medium, appearing like harmful industry counterparts like Facebook. Social media is not the news, self-publishing work does not make one’s work worthy of reading (yes, I’m aware of my own fingers on the keyboard as I type this), and the consumption of current events is not mirror to the reading of news and edited essays or the taking-in of art.

If we look at the reasons for Medium’s effectively shutting down of its many beloved publications, citing reasons of revenue and a lack of subscriber generation, we see that once again money and media cannot reasonably or sustainably exist in one space. In a world of monied media owners, bottom lines, and dedicated staff willing to overwork themselves for sub-par wages, the Goliath almost always wins. Media workers and the ever-increasing pool of freelancers hang onto the lowest rung of the ladder writing for crumbs, hopeful that our David-ism will turn out like the fable. But allegories are not predictive. They’re palliative.

I see more journalists on Twitter talk about the importance of “diversifying” income streams, which to them means writing reported pieces and taking on corporate clients. The suggestion is to turn to where the money is, where constancy lives, and futures are guaranteed. The suggestion is to adapt to our circumstances and bend where we’re asked to bend, and this alone is not a bad thing. Adapt or die, right? At least, maybe with media it’s adapt and die: writers and editors adapt after their publications die. Both predictive and palliative.

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