“Quitting journalism”

by hexacoto

In recent viral video news, Marina Shifrin, who worked as a content editor at Next Media Animation, Taiwanese news animation company responsible for animated news hits such as US-Sino Currency Rap Battle or the one on US airport security body scans, quit her job with a bang, by releasing the above-embedded video.

Shifrin also wrote a post on her blog about her departure, and how journalism is “dead” to her.

I dropped everything for work. I spent hours in the office perfecting my headlines, my voice overs, my stories. But as the workload increased, I found I could no longer keep up. I tried. I came in earlier, I stayed later, I worked on weekends. Scared I wasn’t pulling my weight, I went to my boss and told him how I felt.

“Make deadlines, not art,” was his response.

After I admitted that I could not hit the deadlines needed to put out our long-form, satirical news pieces, I was moved to our serious stories. Guess what I figured out? Journalism is the worst! I mean if you’re not reporting about which Kardashian is pregnant, then you’re reporting about a baby that was shot in the head.

I understand Shifrin’s frustration with writing what she calls “fluff” pieces — after all I once tried writing for Buzzfeed, and it was the most excruciating animated-gif-laden piece I’ve ever produced, and was not proud of it when it was finished. However, what I don’t get is if she can’t keep up with journalism deadlines, where news is produced every day, what was she expecting journalism to be when she decided to embark on that journey in college? Was she not expecting a breakneck pace of work?

J-school tends to give the impression that people have the luxury of time to slowly craft and follow a story, but at least through internships and having to produce content daily, journalism students should know that a lot is expected of them in the span of a day. Shifrin’s beef with her boss’s rather reasonable expectations of her to make deadlines is rather unfounded.

Also, did she not know what she was getting into when she entered Next Media Animation? Perhaps she did, and thought she could outlast the content NMA produces. But she calls having found NMA “different.”

It was for an animation company where I was free to make jokes and put my personality into my writing. I loved it! I found the perfect combination between comedy and journalism. I was having my cake, eating it AND going in for seconds.

She apparently knew what she was getting into, and the whole “NMA produces only fluff” stand seems rather dubious at best.

Her quitting has attracted coverage from quite a few major sites: Wall Street Journal sees her dramatic exit as the product of Millennials’ cynicism, Huffington Post sees it as internet win, and Gawker merely touts it as a young person unable to news aggregation and quitting.

From a Singapore popular opinions site, The Real Singapore has also picked up on the story and wrote their own scathing take on Shifrin’s resignation. They called it a quitting in the “most narcissistic, viral way possible.” They also wrote:

This is the big villain of Shifrin’s piece, the boss who wanted her to hit “deadlines” instead of crafting the “art” of her journalism. Well guess what? Journalism isn’t art.

This is why there is no respectable journalism in Singapore; even sites such as The Real Singapore, which purports to deliver news and journalism as an alternative to the mainstream Singapore media, don’t even respect journalism themselves.

I’ve gone through school to study journalism and how to be a journalist, I want to be a journalist. But it is very easy for many to dismiss journalism as being art, or even fail to see how it can possibly be art. I don’t see how the connecting of the lives of others around the world in as succinct a piece as possible isn’t a form of art.

When Shifrin says she “quits journalism,” it really makes one wonder if she’s meant for journalism in the first place. Pursuing journalism has always been akin to some sort of willing self-debasement — one expects to lose time, friends, and relationships to journalism. But being a journalist is about despite knowing these and still staying on, because one really loves the news. That’s really why anyone would willing put themselves through such torture.

Surviving journalism is all about being in the right news sector.

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