I asked my first Quora question recently and got a lot of wonderfully helpful responses. In the comment thread of one of the responses though, something emerged that I found interesting enough to repost here.
Anna, I don’t think it’s anathema: It’s simply not their job. Magazine journalists are used to a structured work environment with a smart division of labor. Other people edit, illustrate, design, distribute, and promote their work, leaving them more time to do their job, which is writing.
I responded thusly:
Owen, to me that “not my job” business is just crazy in my opinion. In the business world for example, there are lots of things that might not be a worker’s stated job, but there is an understanding of being a team player and pitching in to do things that aren’t explicitly one’s job. What’s more, that kind of behavior is usually looked upon very kindly by management and maybe this is a person they will now consider for special projects or a promotion down the road. That’s why ambitious, hard-working people regularly go above and beyond their job descriptions. They do it for its own reward of knowing they contributed more to the business’ success and they also do it to be professionally and financially rewarded down the road.
But you know, I think I’ve hit upon something here in responding to your comment. You think nothing of stating that journalists/writers are just not willing to go beyond their job description. You don’t think it’s lazy or unambitious. You think it’s perfectly normal. Well, I don’t. Imagine if you told the general public (non-journos) this. Go ahead and tell this to people who are all being asked to do more with less in all of their industries. Tell them that writers simply can’t be bothered with that. No, no, that’s too much for them. They’re delicate geniuses whose work will suffer if they have to do extra things outside of their job descriptions. This kind of thing is why many people (perhaps rightly) think of journalism as a privileged, coddled profession. And I’m sure that’s the way many journalists would like to keep it. But not me. What’s more, the changing media landscape demands a higher degree of efficiency and yes, of doing more than one’s stated job description.
Something else occurs to me. I started out by giving the example of people in business. Well, media is a business just like any other, but for some reasons journalists seem to have been shielded from this “unpleasant” reality for a long time now. This has to end. I firmly believe that it’s possible to be creative and put out good work AND understand how it is that you receive a paycheck for it.
What do you think?
By the way, I’m not implying that using social networks to promote one’s work or any of the other tasks of digital journalism are enough to keep the lights on at one’s publication. But it sure can’t hurt.