I have held off on writing about Marina Shifrin’s viral video in which she dances to Kanye West’s ‘Gone’ while listing the grievances that led her to quit her job at Next Media Animation, until now. You know why I’m writing about this now, Marina? Because it will get page views.
In a startlingly ill-written essay for someone who claims to want to be a writer, Shifrin says:
When it came to deciding between being poor and being broke, I chose poor. I accepted my first job as journalist for a small blog and “reported” my little heart out. But soon something didn’t quite add up. I had the independence and a sliver of financial stability, but I didn’t feel good. So I quit in the pursuit of happiness.
How incredibly noble of you to deign to do a job for money that many, many people (in worse financial straits than Shifrin) do for free.
Soon I got a second job as a journalist, but this one was different. It was for an animation company where I was free to make jokes and put my personality into my writing. I loved it! I found the perfect combination between comedy and journalism. I was having my cake, eating it AND going in for seconds. I dropped everything for work. I spent hours in the office perfecting my headlines, my voice overs, my stories. But as the workload increased, I found I could no longer keep up. I tried. I came in earlier, I stayed later, I worked on weekends. Scared I wasn’t pulling my weight, I went to my boss and told him how I felt.
“Make deadlines, not art,” was his response.
This is the big villain of Shifrin’s piece, the boss who wanted her to hit “deadlines” instead of crafting the “art” of her journalism. Well guess what? Journalism isn’t art. It isn’t unreasonable of your boss to expect you to do your job within the agreed upon deadlines.
After I admitted that I could not hit the deadlines needed to put out our long-form, satirical news pieces, I was moved to our serious stories. Guess what I figured out? Journalism is the worst! I mean if you’re not reporting about which Kardashian is pregnant, then you’re reporting about a baby that was shot in the head.
Journalist has to report the news shocker, more at 11.
My boss is a brilliant writer. My respect for him is boundless. He is a journalist who has become a successful and wealthy businessman. As a businessman it is his main objective to make revenue. How do you make revenue? Clicks. Remember? Clicks are King. So that is why this smart businessman, who has unmatched journalistic talent and writing skills that I can only dream of, wrote a piece about Justin Bieber’s mustache last week. HIS MUSTACHE for christ sake.
I am not saying that all journalism is bad. I am saying that most popular “journalism” is bad.
Shifrin attempts to frame this argument as a new one, about technology and viral news and sensationalism and so on, but it really boils down to simple snobbery, of the sort that has always led to pearl-clutching from a certain sort of person about the “state of journalism”. Shifrin doesn’t think journalists should be writing about Justin Bieber, despite the fact that, by her own admission, there is a huge market for it.
Journalism has always been a compromise between public appeal and public duty. There’s a reason that newspapers have cartoons and crosswords, there’s a reason magazines put celebrities on the cover, there’s a reason blogs write about viral videos. There is a tiny market for well-reported stories of the sort that Shifrin undoubtedly thinks of when she pictures “real journalism”, but by packaging those stories with others that have more mass appeal, they have a chance to be read far more widely. Shifrin actually presents this compromise, which has existed for as long as newspapers, as her own idea:
At least do this much: For every fluff-piece you click on, click (and preferably read) two well-reported, intelligent and long-form news stories.
Oh, and that terrible job that Shifrin quit so publicly in the middle of an unemployment crisis because she wasn’t 100 percent satisfied? It paid $42,000 per year. (That last link is to a Q&A a NMA manager did with Gawker regarding Shifrin’s resignation, and is well worth reading.)
Finally, here’s NMA’s video response: