The New York Observer printed this fairly weird think piece on the modern decline of the magazine writer. It argues that young people are spurning feature writing as the magazine industry contracts, turning instead to other ventures like blogging (where apparently they are just giving away jobs for $50k a year) or web writing. This, industry insiders suggest, is ruining the product magazines put out. I think in part because a lot of younger writers, instead of learning to write features, are going to the Internet and blogging. Blogging is great preparation for blogging, but not always great preparation for a career in journalism.” Guy Talese kicks it up a notch. These people don’t leave their fucking laptops,” he said. “It used to be, you would go outside. It’s leaving home, getting on a plane or a bus or a bicycle, and going somewhere. It doesn’t mean you have a fixed interview. It’s hanging around. On it's merits, I don't necessarily disagree with these sentiments -- blogging and long-form reporting are two very different skill sets, and moving back and forth between them is extremely tricky. But these critics can't have it both ways. In my short career, I've come up with an inconceivable amount of story ideas that I would have been thrilled to write, if only I could afford to do some on-the-ground reporting away from my teeny Chicago apartment. But on the rates I was being paid, it just wasn't possible, even for a guy who didn't have to put himself through college. So find new ways to pay writers, don't denigrate online long-form reporting, and quit your nostalgic blabbering.
Adam Doster, a contributing editor at In These Times, is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former reporter-blogger for Progress Illinois.