Wednesday, 16 April 2008

4,000 angry journalists

Former journalist Kiyoshi Martinez (23) struck a nerve with his Angry Journalist website “for the underpaid, overworked, frustrated, pissed off and ignored media professionals to publicly and anonymously vent their anger”. Over four thousand journalists have posted their complaints about poor conditions of employment and deteriorating quality standards. By email, Martinez explains what his website is about.

First, is the site primarily a platform to express anger, or is it also intended as a tool to change something about how journalism works?

“The site's core mission remains unchanged: to provide people a forum to voice their frustrations and complain about the industry and their jobs. In a perfect world, employers, managers, editors, publishers, corporate executives, etc. would read this site, too, and begin to realize how miserable those under them really are at their jobs. Perhaps this realization would lead to some substantial changes at one paper, company, the industry at a whole. However, I'm not naive to think that my web site is going to make that happen, which is why I'm not trying to turn it into an activist organization of any sort. [...] Without a radical changing of the guard to implement new strategies and innovate ways to make more revenue, I don't think that you'll ever really see this anger subside”.

Last year, there have been protests of journalists’ unions about similar issues as the ones raised at your website. Do you think that unions can realistically play a role in improving conditions in journalism?

“I'm not sure about the role of unions internationally (especially not journalism unions), but I don't see unions having much power to prevent the massive layoffs that are happening here in the States. Perhaps some modest gains have been made for employees, but a union can't save your job if the revenues aren't as high and the paper is forced to layoff workers.
Also, I think a key issue is that there's a scarcity of journalism jobs in the industry right now, with an abundant supply of freshly minted journalism grads. This places the bargaining power with the employer, not the employee. To me, I think this high competition for jobs means lower wages, in a sort of, ‘hey, if you won't do it for this price, I have 5 others that will’ situation. I could be wrong though, as I said, I'm not intimately familiar with journalist unions”.

Martinez quit his journalism job and now works as a spokesperson for the Republicans in the Illinois Senate. Does your current employer have an opinion on your web activities?

“I'm not aware of what my current employer thinks of my online activities, because I've never asked and it's never been brought up. I do this on my own free time, outside of work hours and none of it conflicts with my current job”.

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