Plan B Week, Day 4: Surviving the Media Meltdown

How Are You Rethinking Your Role in the Media Economy? More Word from Ad Age Readers

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It's Day 4 of Plan B Week. Each day this week we're running reader responses to my recent "Media Guy" column titled "Topic A in Rapidly Shrinking Medialand: What's Your Plan B?" in which I wrote about soul-searching in the media business in the wake of massive restructuring and layoffs. (The first batch of responses appeared here, as well as in the print edition of Advertising Age; the second batch appeared here; the third batch appeared here.)

Shark Week
Photo: Discovery Channel
ROUGH WATERS: It's Plan B Week -- sort of like Shark Week, but with (slightly) less gore.
Surviving the Media Meltdown:
Plan B Week: Day 1

Tom McCawley writes, "I'm in my mid-30s, been in the print game in Asia for about a decade. I've been saying similar things to your piece since the mid-2000s, having seen publications I worked for or admired tank. Having mostly freelanced since then, I had less invested than other people.

"Why wasn't the industry having the conversation at this level of seriousness five years ago? I remember comments like the one you're making, 'We're in danger of being robbed of our professional identities,' getting ignored or swept aside with platitudes like, 'They (the public) will always need journalists.'

"I first heard a comment from a magazine editor in 1998 saying, 'The industry we work for is ultimately doomed by the web' -- and I swept it aside.

"The industry trends have been pretty clear. The writing was on the wall. Did a lot of journalists choose to ignore it?"

A reader whose name I'm withholding because I wanted her to be able to speak out about her job (at a marketing company in the Detroit area) without jeopardizing it, writes, "I am at the starting point of my career, and my workplace is currently in a 'morgue-like' state. The company I work for promotes the fact that we are 'lean and mean.' Now, with all the layoffs, the slogan 'famished and bitter' is more appropriate.

"The term 'Black Friday' is the current buzzword.

"In this state of constant dread, thinking, Who will be next, it is of utmost importance to think of your Plan B strategy. Your column commented on the fact that some people work their entire lives in one industry, and the industry ends up defining who they are. A layoff, as stressful and traumatic as it may be, is the best way to learn who you really are. If you find you are creative by nature after digging yourself out of layoff despair, then get creative. The media industry will not disappear if creative people can find a way to recreate it."

James Lynch writes, "I'm an out-of-work journalist struggling to find my 'Plan B.' And everyone I know who is still employed tells me I have to 'reinvent' myself. Yeah, segue into PR or corporate communications where you'll be lucky to find an entry-level job, because it's a completely different animal. Or, why not teach? Journalism ... I don't think so. How about teaching kids? That sounds good. But try getting certified, which involves taking a math test. Math? A bit difficult when you find yourself having trouble helping your 8-year-old son do his second-grade math homework.

"Your autoworker analogy is on the mark. The only guy I've seen lately with a viable 'Plan B' (though fictional) was Clint Eastwood in the film 'Gran Torino.' Now he had a plan."

Susan Petrie writes, "I live in upstate New York and lost my job as a publicist for a university press in December. Since then, I've tried to reimagine myself as a podiatrist. Or a state assembly aide (whatever that is).

"(I thought publishing was my ticket out of the stultifying 'Big Three' that dominate Albany's economy -- education, health care or government/patronage work. Now, I have to reconsider.)

"I started a blog, 26Weeks (the number of weeks I was eligible for unemployment), to detail my experiences on the dole, but after three posts was too disheartened.

"The creative spirit lingers on, and, even as I am faced with the possibility of a job as a census worker, I'll probably just decide to zero out and start over, possibly with a patchwork collection of jobs. That's how I'll use my creativity for now. Thanks for recognizing the spirit that flows through media!"

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