I have just volunteered to leave a newspaper I love and a job about which I am passionate.
Last week Trinity Mirror, the company that owns the Birmingham Post, announced 41 journalists in the Midlands are to lose their jobs by the end of the year. I am offering to leave as part of the cull.
I want to learn digital media
I want to leave so I can become a writer who is as competent in the digital arena as I currently am in print.
I am in a more fortunate position than many of my colleagues in that I have worked for BPM Media, as it is now known, for 21 years and so my pay-off is relatively comfortable. I can buy myself the time to learn.
My plan is to spend the first few months of next year getting to know how websites are made. I want to learn HTML code. I want to understand FTP, SEO and WBMP format. I want to get canny with the back end of the internet so I can be more effective in the way I use it up front.
I love digital
I love the internet for its scope, its flexibility, its speed, its diversity and its potential to create community. I’m excited by the way, in theory at least, it makes it possible for anyone to tell his or her story. I came into journalism because I believe in story-telling. The world wide web has made this possible in ways that were unimaginable just 20 years ago. This is a good thing.
Sadly, it is also bringing about the crisis in the media industries which I and my colleagues are finding so painful at the moment. I have no idea what form the media of the future will take. I don’t know if Murdoch will prove that readers are happy to pay for newspapers online and thereby rescue not only the Times but the whole newspaper industry.
I want to combine story-telling and digital skills
I can’t tell if the Guardian’s response of inviting readers to subscribe to a newspaper-based club will turn out to be the business model that rescues all print from terminal decline. I have a sneaky feeling that Clay Shirky might be right when he says saving newspapers is not the answer and the whole edifice needs to come tumbling down before the new journalism – whatever it is – can emerge.
But I have a hunch that whatever form the media of the future is going to take, whether it will be niche and hyperlocal or multi-tasking in multi-media conglomerates, the people who are going to be really useful are those who combine traditional story-telling skills with both a social and technical understanding of the web.
I want to be one of those people. I’m fortunate in having the opportunity to become one. With moist eyes and tender feelings for the team to which I have belonged for almost all my adult life, I have handed in my form….
*I wrote this post originally for The Birmingham Post.