Journalists: Save Your Work

selective focus photography of magazines

Scores have journalists have lost their jobs in the last few weeks. You may have noticed. As well as worrying about the future of digital media, there is a growing discussion about maintaining access to the stories laid-off hacks have published at now-defunct outlets. Many rely on stories from an old job when applying for a new one, but what happens if a website just… disappears?

Scott Nover wrote an interesting column on this issue for Slate. He spoke to journalists who had been directly affected by their outlet shuttering:

Trone Dowd, a former reporter for both Vice and the Messenger, has seen his clips at an outlet deleted twice—once at the Messenger, and once at a local paper, the Queens Tribune. At the Messenger, an editor, David Ewalt, took a chance on him and let him cover a new beat—video games. “I was able to build six months’ worth of strong clips. It was the only tangible showcase of my ability to cover the video games industry day in and day out with a bit of teeth,” Dowd said in an email. “By wiping all of my work from the internet without warning, I’m basically relying on prospective employers to either ask me for clips (I have them in Google Docs) or for colleagues at other publications and sources I’d built relationships with to vouch that I’d been decent at the job.

When a journalist loses their job, their previous work is crucial to demonstrating that someone else should hire them. However, in a digital world, it is not like you can hoard the newspaper clippings. Consequently, months or years’ worth of work can become difficult to find, or simply evaporate. This is a major blow when looking for that next job. How else can someone prove they can actually do the thing you say you can do?

It may be screenshots and PDFs. It may be something more sophisticated. But we all have to think of ways of maintaining our clips as the media environment becomes evermore febrile.

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