Racing to the Bottom: Gen Y Edition

By John Winn

As Brennon so thoughtfully pointed out today, ambitious young people (read: aspiring journalists) hoping to break into their field have run into some difficulty for some time.  The industry as a whole is rebounding, but one thing is dead certain: Gen Y is moving away from traditional print media as a career. It isn’t only aspiring journos running into trouble, so it’s worth it to look at Generation Y from the bottom rung: the entry-level job.

In the past, the words ‘drudgery’ and ‘work’ didn’t often go together in the minds of 18-29 year-olds. A booming economy, access to luxury goods, and the idea of a certain lifestyle fostered by shows like The Hills and Laguna Beach created the impression that if Joe or (increasingly) Joanna American was young, smart and witty that a dream job was in the offing.  This also coincided with a shift from a manufacuring to a knowledge-based economy, which influenced in no small part apiring journos’ dreams of becoming the next Arianna Huffington or David Pogue.

That dream is more or less over.  For those wealthy enough, or just lucky enough to grow up a few short years before the crash of 2008, scaling back simply means packing their bags and going to Europe, or taking on an internship at their dad’s-best-friend’s-newspaper-cum-website. Yet for the rest of us, it means the dreaded S-word: Settling.

 Not surprisingly, this has created some resentment not just among the generations, but within them as well.  It cuts across nationalities and classes, and is one of the main reasons why the OWS movement resonated with so many last year. Yet for many, just holding on to a job–any job–is considered enough of an achievement to brag about.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a crawfish plant or an auto dealership, aspring journos and non-journos alike are putting their dreams on hold sometimes permanently, telling themselves that they could come back to it later when the dust settles.

Like a lot of aspiring journos, writing and editing has been in my blood for some time. My brother works for Global Post.  My cousin writes press releases for a Montreal-based government relations company. Yet increasingly I count myself among those who have had their dreams deferred because of circumstances beyond my control.  A lot of my coworkers at the courier service where I work have had to do the same, and I know for a fact they won’t realize their dreams–ever.  I find my siblings’ obliviousness offensive, and resent their humblebragging in equal measure. I resent the talking heads and personalities who told us we were special, that we were guaranteed some Shangri-La $80,000 career and McMansion on the side. They’ve never walked an hour in my shoes–or in my case, ten.   

I curse their bones to the dust.

To those who are struggling in this economy: I stand with you.  To those who don’t understand–who will never understand–I hope you never have to choose between the life you want, and the life you can afford.  But you will never face that dilemma, will you?

Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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To Be or Not To Be (Influential)

By Alexandria Harris

It’s a good time to ponder existence because this past week has been slightly morbid. Only we’re not going to look at our own mortality–that has a tendency to scare people and we’re just starting to become friends (I hope).

Today the window closes on how much people are willing to hear depressing news, so I thought I’d take my chance. (If you’re wondering about the window I’m referring to, it is as follows: Monday you’re either depressed or overly positive; Tuesday is usually the worst day of the week because you’ve either sunk lower or lost your delusions, Wednesday is the middle of the week so you’re starting to climb the mountain; Thursday you’re embracing positivity and can see the light at the end of the tunnel; and Friday = FREE AT LAST).

Yesterday was especially morbid because it was the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. If you didn’t notice it by how many times they played Man in the Mirror on the radio, you probably heard it on the news. Since PYT is my favorite song (of his) I had it on repeat. At a point where I had entirely too much time on my hands, I had an entire choreographed dance to PYT and my family and friends frequently got together to do the Thriller dance.

However Nora Ephron’s passing may be more relevant to you. I found it relevant and I’m embarrassed to say I had no idea who she was until today because you can’t get away from her name on the Internet and she’s trending on Twitter.

For those who might have been like me (the majority of you who aren’t, humor me) Ephron’s work includes Silkwood, Heartburn, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and Julie and Julia. She was a writer, director, novelist, producer, and obviously multi-talented. Her work was able to reach across gender lines to be enjoyed by all. It’s also inspiring how she set the bar for women directors like Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides), and other directors.

Basically she set the bar high for future female directors and novelists. It’s always sad when someone this talented and influential passes away, but there’s always a semblance of hope that the legacy they leave inspires people to great things. Her passing jump started my curiosity not just in her work, but to see who were the most influential writers today. As good timing would have it, The Daily Beast featured a slideshow list from Newsweek of columnists, bloggers, and writers who they believe are the most influential. Some I haven’t read, some I’ve obviously read, and others I’m not sure why they’re on the list. For those of you not visiting the link and for my news oriented people who care, I’ll list the ten below:

1. Ezra Klein, Wonk, The Washington Post
2. Robert Wright, Co-founder, Talkingheads.tv
3. Matt Yglesias, Blogger, Slate
4. Ross Douthat, Columnist, The New York Times
5. Arianna Huffington, Editor in Chief, The Huffington Post
6. Ed Morrissey, Blogger, Hot Air
7. Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo Blog
8. Glenn Greenwald, Writer, Salon
9. Jonathan Chait, Writer, New York Magazine
10. David Frum, Writer, The Daily Beast

And to continue my quest to be real, I’ve only been indirectly influenced by Arianna whose Huffington Post reach is a monolith threatening a world takeover. However, I’m young and pretty sure I’ll be forced to collide with the others’ work soon enough.

Jackson and Ephron left a powerful legacy. We are still being influenced by writers, bloggers, journalists today which shape how we view the world and the legacies we want to leave. Influence can be a powerful and dangerous thing.
It can also be life-changing.

Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin