Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.
Over the past couple of weeks I have been contemplating switching back to real
journal writing ie. using a pen and a notebook made of paper. For some reason, I find it more personal, more enjoyable and more artistic than sitting at a PC typing away. Especially considering the fact that the ideas for my book project just seem to vanish when I open up Word and attempt to build up the characters, setting and what-not. So yesterday, I decided to head out to South Hadley’s very own Odyssey Bookshop, and make it official. I got a journal for personal thoughts (I hardly ever stick to writing daily entries so I wonder if I should even call it a journal = journee/jour in French = day) and a regular notebook for my book project. For me, finding the right journal is a very personal thing because it is in essence a documentation of my very existence. Sure, there’s the birth certificate, but if someone where to find that a good number of years after my demise, it wouldn’t tell them much about who I actually am. And especially since I have these romantic notions that my private journals will be uncovered one day (after my demise) and do some young lady (or the world?) a whole lot of good, I figure I’ll want them to know what good taste I
have as well lol.
Before I happened upon my journal, I came across this: [Refer to inscription on photo to the left]. Those are the words that stared up at me as I searched for the perfect journal yesterday. I’m not usually one for crude jokes (or language), but I couldn’t help but chuckle to
myself. Especially since I am a blogger. After I left the store, I remembered a question asked by Fred Obeng-Ampofo at BarCamp Diaspora in July during the social media and blogging breakout session I led. “Since there are all these blogs springing up on the internet, what will happen to traditional journalism? How will journalists fend for themselves?” At the time, I didn’t have a well-formed reply and muttered off something along the lines of “like everything else, we have to adapt with the times.” I gave the question some more thought as I made my way back to 1837 (my dorm. yes, it has a year as it’s name.) Really, what will happen to traditional print journalism once online journals take over?
Well, for one thing, considering the fact that I am both a blogger, and a paper-based journal enthusiast, I think it should (and hopefully will) be a two-way street. Why do things always have to be either-or? We should have the benefit of choice and variety, hence both print journals and online journals. It’s kind of a similar phenomenon with letter-writing. Until email, letters were the in-thing. You had different forms: telegraphs, love letters, official letters, notes, you name it. And then came email, and try to dominate it did. And…maybe, it has for the most part. But, many people still write regular letters. I know I do from time to time. Truth be told, there is something more personal about taking time to buy the perfect writing/letter pad, select the best pen, and put that pen to paper. And for me especially, it’s all about seeing your creative ability develop right before your eyes. If you think you never created anything, take a pen and paper and scribble nonsense, and voila, you’re accomplished.
If you want to approach the question with a business mindset, here’s what I think. While online journalism will certainly take over a market share of print journalism, at the end of the day, it’s the consumer that wins. More variety, more choice, more ‘efficient’ ways of allocating their resources. For the producer (journalists, bloggers, reporters etc), it’s a challenge. And maybe a good one at that. If there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s poor journalism. Not checking facts, not editing articles, making reading tedious, all of that. So, as this challenge (competition) presents itself, I would anticipate that the quality of journalism will be better. Additionally, it’s about being creative in approaching this “challenge”. The trick here is to regard the challenge as an opportunity. And many media houses have already done this. The NY Times, The Economist, CNN, BBC, The Washington Times, Joy FM, etc all have online portals in addition to their print/tv/radio editions. I personally think having online bloggers and readers is great because it allows not only for interaction, but for fact-checking. In a sense, gone are the days when the ‘winner’ wrote history. Why? Because if a media megahouse makes unfounded claims in an article, there is bound to be someone who was on the ground, to challenge them. People have often called for the need to make the media accountable, that’s what blogging, ireporting etc offers. Additionally, blogging gives people who didn’t actually have a ‘voice’ to reclaim their voices. The world might be a tougher place to live in if everyone speaks their truth, but ultimately, I think
it’ll be a better place.
A subset question that Fred also posed was about journalists earning a living. And lets be realistic here, journalists typically don’t earn much, and now this?! Here’s what I think. People/Businesses looking for journalists are still likely to go for the more seasoned ones who have had extensive training and who have a degree to prove it (as it is, the world is obsessed with degrees). We live in a world of possibilities and opportunities. Chances are, you probably have some specific topics or areas that interest you and that you tend to concentrate on in your articles, videos, reports etc. Don’t limit yourself to just
journalism. If you like to report on the environment for instance, you’re most likely to garner a good number of contacts through your work. Find out if there’s a job opportunity in the area. Maybe you could be…drumroll…the inhouse blogger for an environment-based company. Or better yet, you could be a researcher. Trying times calls for creative measures. In my opinion, anyone who is in journalism probably did not have money as their number one goal. Your main reason for pursuing this industry could have stemmed from a passion for writing, current affairs, informing people, being in the know, having multiple projects etc. I believe in the goodness of humans and in karma. You do a good turn (which you are! you’re helping write history! literally!!!) and many good turns will come back to you. So, let’s embrace this marriage between online and print journalism, and instead of allowing the relationship to turn stale, let’s infuse it with new possibilities.