The New York Times reports today on burnout among young writers working at “high metabolism” websites like Gawker and Politico. The story that emerges, however, is more about the kind of people who work at those places than the pressures of writing online today.
At Politico several reporters thought that an April Fool’s email from editors announcing a new 5 a.m. start time was real. “One girl actually cried,” one former staffer told The Times. “It was like boot camp, the Politico,” another former staffer said. “But I know a lot of people were proud they survived.”
At Gawker, writers stand in front of television screen tracking page views for the ten most-viewed articles “like early hominids in front of a monolith,” according to Nick Denton in the piece.
But Times reporter Jeremy Peters never really explores why people take these jobs (maybe: clips, exposure, money). Mr. Peters explains:
Such is the state of the media business these days: frantic and fatigued. Young journalists who once dreamed of trotting the globe in pursuit of a story are instead shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought or be first to report even the smallest nugget of news — anything that will impressalgorithms and draw readers their way.
Another way to say that would be: It’s hard work to blog. But how many young people have jobs that allow them to read all day, think and write? And if those jobs come at the expense of sleeping late, so be it. Are there really people who dreamed of being foreign correspondents working at Gawker and Politico? If so, that seems terribly hopeless — they should be learning Arabic or interning at the International Herald Tribune. Or maybe that’s the plan after bootcamp.