Thursday, April 07, 2011

Birth of the mediacrofter, death of the hack

Yesterday, before salmonella laid me low, I had a meeting about a planned media training programme for councillors and council officials back in Shetland.

It went well. The people involved, three of them, have a company which specialises in this sort of thing, and has done effective work for all kinds of major league corporate clients. This doesn't take up all of their time. They have other irons in various fires.

All three were vastly experienced, high-flying journalists. None of them make any money from journalism as such any more. And neither do I.

Instead, it became apparent, we're all mediacrofters. True, I was the only officially registered crofter there, with a smallholding in Shetland on which sheep cavort and subsidies were once claimed. But the essence of crofting as a rural lifestyle has always been multitasking – you can only survive by adaptability, by doing a bit of fishing, growing some veg, keeping some sheep, maybe delivering letters, repairing walls, selling paintings, philosophising or bartending. Self reliance, if not self sufficiency. Because you depend on the community too.

Journalism, certainly freelance journalism, is dead in the water, other than for a privileged few who must all be gazing into a very uncertain future. I am a light entertainer, trading on a life-long passion for music and trivia and a church upbringing that forced me to perform from the age of seven. I do a bit of freelance PR, write online for free. We have a holiday cottage we rent out. I sell second hand books, speculate in bad motorcycles. No pension, no fallback, no contracts. The three men I met with yesterday do PR, training, consultancy work, design, copywriting, wedding photography, videos, online telly, clever little projects to sell words and pictures. And tellingly, they collaborate to survive and thrive. With each other, with small, imaginative companies.

But, and this was telling, they said it was the established media organisations that deny the new digital realities, who refuse collaboration and instead cut payments and staff to the bone. Who see what individuals like them do as threatening.

And yes, we swopped war stories. Terrible, scary, hilarious moments back in the day. The Braer, Lockerbie, BCCI. Big stories. Huge hotel bills. Unlimited expense accounts. Taxis from Glasgow to Braemar and back. Privately chartered aeroplanes, for heaven's sake (and that was me, for The Scotsman).

But that was the past. Now, we're about surviving. Now, we live by our wits. Now, we're crofting.  


Ian Bell said...

Can I get by, for now, with calling that interesting?

EyeOnDubai said...

Ahh, so THAT'S what I'm doing now. Mediacrofting. Good word. Used to be wovoping (Working On Variety Of Projects).