A Temple professor tells college kids there's no more inspiring time to be a journalist.
By the time Awesu graduated from Temple in May 2007, she'd already published her first issue featuring the smooth rapping, genre-blending Lupe Fiasco on the cover.
Just 23, Awesu has published four issues of Avenue Report with a circulation of some 9,000 copies in specific areas. Next year the magazine will be available in Borders stores and Barnes & Nobles around the country.
And this is Awesu's first full-time position in journalism.
"Ideally, I wanted to work for a magazine first," she says. But she jumped in headfirst when she was able to secure financial backing for her dream. She now oversees every aspect of the operation, including a small staff.
"It's been very hard," she says. "As much as I love writing and editing, this is a business. It's very costly up front and you may not make any money until year four or later."
Small-circulation magazines can cost tens of thousands for printing alone, but there are ways to become your own media outlet that don't cost anything.
David Hobby was a veteran photojournalist for the The Baltimore Sun in 2006 when he started compiling information about photo lighting on a blog called Strobist. He launched with zero overhead, using free web space from blogger.com and connecting to free WiFi at the public library.
The site, which offers lighting tips, inspirational images and news on the latest gadgets, quickly developed a loyal following. Hobby now gets about 1.5 million page hits a month and recently topped 2.5 million in unique visitors.
"I've really been instrumental in teaching 2 million photographers how to use light," he boasts.
The site features a full roster of advertisers and a waiting list of companies wanting to hawk their wares and services. Revenue is so strong that Hobby, a father of two young children, quit his news- paper job last month to run the blog full-time.
"I couldn't afford to go back to the Sun, financially speaking," he says with a chuckle.
Hobby believes ventures like his--small content generators, aggregators, repurposers and other niche media--are the future.
|Glass half-full: Temple News' editor-in-chief Chris Stover is willing to go to Lubbock, Texas, if that's where the jobs are.|
"The old Fourth Estate is disintegrating," Hobby tells me. "Rather than rely upon these big towers of journalistic integrity, like The New York Times or TV network news, the aggregate of all the smaller operations is going to be bigger than traditional media."
Denise Clay, past president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and a current Temple adjunct, says, "If you don't grab the bull by the horns real quick, you'll find yourself in a job asking, 'You want fries with that?'"
Journalism will always exist, says Clay. It's just going to look a lot different.
"This generation gets information in ways we can't fathom," says Mark Potts, formerly one of the top editors at philly.com. "You just have to broaden your definition of what a journalism job is."
But for every modestly successful independent blog or website, scores of journalistic experiments come up short, like RealPhilly magazine and Inquirer News Tonight, just to name two.
After former Inquirer reporter Eils Lotozo was laid off in 2007, she tried to establish a home and design feature story/photo service for newspapers. On her website, she posted stories every week and made them available for purchase with rates determined by circulation. She developed the concept from scratch, believing that newspapers with shrinking staffs would be in need of content.
Geek Invasion 2013