A few years ago (alright, 13 years ago) I wrote my undergraduate journalism dissertation on whether the internet would spell the end of printed newspapers.
I concluded that the availabilty of information online would certainly damage the traditional print business model and readership but it wouldn’t die unless digital could be made highly convenient and even tactile.
Back then the idea of a smartphone or tablet, even the paperwhite of a Kindle, hadn’t crossed my mind. In my studies I was talking about something so technologically advanced I may as well have been talking about jet packs or hover boards. However, these few years on (alright, 13 years on) that faraway vision of the future is very much here and print is certainly facing a crisis.
I don’t think about my dissertation often but it came to mind as I listened to my Louder Than War editor John Robb discuss music journalism with Manchester Evening News’ culture correspondent Sarah Walters. The chat was part of a set of masterclasses taking place in Tim Peaks Diner at Kendal Calling festival this year.
Of course, it was interesting to listen to John talk about his experiences of coming to music journalism not through formal training but through the passion of writing fanzines. Long, long before I met him or joined the Louder Than War team John was one of my favourite music writers so it was great to hear him talk.
And it was great to hear Sarah’s slightly different career path. Although she too had come from fanzines she’d gone down the route of a journalism degree.
The most interesting part of the discussion for me though was the difference between being a regional print journalist and writing on the internet. There was good insights into the different agendas for each channel, the different style of writing because of the differening audience and platform capability.
All of this led to conjecture on the future of the print channel and of music journalism as a career. For me, hearing the different views and positioning myself within the scenarios (wrote fanzines, got a degree in journalism, now a ‘hobbyist’ critic in that I have a paying day job in another field, but a hobbyist who’s an editor of one of the UK’s biggest music websites). Will there be more like me – a mixed career path where journalism isn’t always the earning component or can it continue in the structure it’s held traditionally?
The best workshops or talks I’ve been to have left me with more questions than answers and this was certainly one of those.
Is this the future of music journalism? With so much access to online and the ability to publish so easily – whether writing or music – what is the place of the critic these days?
And with the way work is changing is the value of my journalism less than someone who receives a salary specifically to be a critic? And if it does – why?