Are Teachers And Journalists On The Same Wild Ride?

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They’re facing a lot of change, and the same tough questions.

Google ‘what do teachers and journalists have in common’ and not much comes up. But actually, there’s a lot. Both fields are changing quickly due to social and economic forces and new technology. And in both, there’s lots of uncertainty and fear about the future, after decades of relative stability.

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The Cyclone at Coney Island, 1935 (Museum of the City of New York)

So teachers and journalists are facing the same tough questions:

Will there be funding for this career and will it be enough to live on and support a family? Funding for journalism at all levels (but especially local) has collapsed spectacularly in the past ten years thanks to the internet. And while not as dramatic, government funding for schools (and teacher pensions) is under pressure, with salaries for younger teachers conspicuously lagging.

Does society value what I do anymore? Is this even a career now? Beyond funding (but related), there’s the question of respect. Teachers worry they’re not valued as much as they once were, and journalists fear the public doesn’t trust them anymore. Both careers require lots of positive energy, so not feeling needed or wanted is a huge issue.

Do I have to be an activist to get ahead? Politics has always played a role in schools and in the media, but these days louder voices seem to attract more attention and funding. Media ventures with a point of view have huge audiences, and schools and their curricula are more politicized than ever.

Do I need to be a star to succeed? Perhaps due to social media, the star system has arrived in both journalism and education on a scale previously unimaginable. Personal branding and self-promotion seem more important than ever, as both journalists and teachers try to avoid getting commoditized, while changing jobs (and freelancing) more than ever.

Will I need to be entrepreneurial or create my own job? Many journalists are now doing their own startups or joining them; Many of the most ambitious teachers are running side businesses and/or trying to innovate from within existing systems. But has entrepreneurship of some kind now become a requirement for success?

Am I in a death struggle with technology, or will it empower me in exciting new ways? Technology is disrupting and challenging the core of what teachers and journalists do. Will technology empower them to accomplish more than ever before? Or dramatically reduce or eliminate the need for their talents? (I doubt it, but the fear is real)

Can I get excited to get out of bed each morning and go to work? Can passion for the missions of teaching and journalism still outweigh the hassles and existential challenges of the jobs?

The answer to these questions will vary widely, with no one-size-fits-all prescriptions. Both teaching and journalism have changed forever, becoming a lot more challenging and less homogeneous.

If you know someone who’s a teacher or journalist, give them a high five and remind them that what they’re doing really matters. The path they chose may have more challenges than ever, but it’s also more important than ever – and they need the support.

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