Sunday, August 24, 2008

THE MOJO MODE

Local whining blog the Stess-Telegram (aka the most disappointing site on the Internet) posted this info about a new initiative called the MoJo Mode. I'd explain it to you, but here it is.

"We've heard chatter about a MediaNews “mobile journalist” program called the MoJo Initivative.

The idea isn't new: other news organizations, Gannett being among the first, have undertaken programs that provide mobile kits (laptops, audio recorders, video and/or digital cameras, cell phones and Internet access) to people willing to work out of their home or cars.

With journalists working from the field instead of the newsroom, media companies can significantly cut overhead, needing only a small office to house assignment,news and web editors with maybe a few additional desks reporters can share. For example, The Record in Hackensack, N.J reported recently that it was moving out of Hackensack (savings: $2.4 milion), that most of the news staff would become mobile journalists, working from the field, while others would also relocate to one of the paper's eight weekly newspaper sites. “They will share desks as they are rarely in the office. The office/work concept is called ‘hoteling’. Employees actually reserve desk time to cut down on the number of desks and square footage needed.”

There are up-sides for reporters and photographers doing mobile journalism: most want the training and the equipment to hone their skills so as to be all-platform. Almost all understand that “technology has made people more mobile, and journalism has to react.” Journalism from Inside a Car

But the down-side may be that with more and more journalists expected to work remotely, employers may eventually seek to cut the umbilical chord (but not editorial oversight, hopefully) and sever the employer-employee relationship entirely. The line between a staff journalist and a freelance journalist that works from home is virtually nonexistent - except for the compensation and benefits paid to the staffer. The working conditions, the work itself, and all the rest of the traditional differences are essentially erased once you separate the journalist from the newsroom. Or so it would seem. What do you think?

Are you already operating in the mojo mode? How is it working for you?"

Well, they asked, so here's my answer.

Any person who turns their back on the opportunity to work from home is a goddamned fool. As someone who worked at the PT and now works from my apartment, let me tell you the world is a much better place from the friendly confines of my couch (where I type this lovely post).

Pajamas are better than suits. Frizzy hair is better than combed. Sleeping in is better than being somewhere at 10 a.m. Being in control of my destiny is better than listening to codgers tell me what to do, where to be and what time I can go home. Lunch tastes better, my visits to the gym are longer and I have more personal time to do whatever the hell it is I want. A few days ago I packed myself a picnic and had lunch by myself at the park. Try doing that in an office environment.

A good journalist suffers when they sit behind a desk answering phones all day. Believe you me, this happens A LOT at the PT. The public wants, no NEEDS, the best stories they can get. The only way to do this is for reporters to get out in the field and see what's going on. Too much time in an office is what kills journalism, not technology or the Internet or cell phones or blogs or whatever excuse the dinosaurs in the industry want to come up with. The reason newspapers are suffering is because they operate using old techniques. We don't use horse-drawn buggies to get around town -- we have cars. People don't hop on boats to get to Europe -- we fly. Times change. Maybe this MoJo mode is the remedy.

Perhaps I'm in the minority. The older I get the more I think people are sheep who need others to dictate their daily routine. I don't. I hated every second I had to be inside that office (or any office for that matter) and regardless of how difficult it can be to provide for myself without a paycheck every other Friday, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. I'm in control. I'm in charge. I am the boss, the employee, the secretary and the human resources department. When things go well, I get the credit, not some company masthead that don't give two shits about me. When things go poorly, the finger is pointed at me. When I fuck up, I don't mind the blame. It fuels the fire.

I think this MoJo mode is a good idea. Cut the ties and let the cream rise to the top. Those afraid of not having a tight relationship with their job are those who would drown in the freelance ocean and are the same people who turn in lackluster stories. Newspapers are cutting back left and right. I'm not in favor of people losing their jobs, but a solid argument can be made that those who are good at what they do have nothing to worry about. It's those who aren't A-list material who should worry. And in journalism, the public should demand nothing but A-list material.

One of the biggest problems with freelancing is having the funds to get decent equipment. Once you have that, the largest hurdle (sorry -- I got Olympic fever) is selling stories. Here is where the adults are separated from the kids. I'd jump at the opportunity if a news organization wanted to give me the tools I needed and assured me that I had a strong chance of publishing my work on a consistent basis.

So Stress-Telegram, keep complaining about your shitty union that hasn't gotten a single thing done for you in the past five years. Keep linking to sites from other parts of the country while you fail to realize that they few supporters you might have in Long Beach couldn't care less about negotiations in the Bay Area or Minnesota or Colorado or Bumfuck Egypt. You're outsourcing your info, which ironically is the same issue you rail against at the PT. Take it from me -- you've got plenty of in-house stories to tell. Why don't you try focusing on those?

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