Times Casts Light on ‘Frantic and Fatigued’ Online Journalists

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Gawker's infamous "big board." Photo: Michael Appleton/New York Times

In a survey that paints a pretty bleak picture for young college graduates with their hearts set on a career in online journalism, the Times takes a look at the daily grind young journalists face in this increasingly stressful and page-views-obsessed industry. Using Politico as its main example, the paper describes a work environment where staffers actually believe an April Fools’ Joke that they are meant to arrive at work each day by 5 a.m., a place where the best way they can think of to create a “friendly workplace conversation” is by requiring employees to wear name tags.

This is an industry — with the focus on cranking out “anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way” — that can wear down even the liveliest of young spirits. And there are quotes from professor types to prove it!

“When my students come back to visit, they carry the exhaustion of a person who’s been working for a decade, not a couple of years,” said Duy Linh Tu, coordinator of the digital media program at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. “I worry about burnout.”

Gawker is also cited as one of the pressure-cooker media environments, due in part to the “big board” on the wall that displays the ten most-viewed articles across all Gawker Media websites updated in real time, a detail which was probably worked in primarily as a way to include this amusing Nick Denton quote:

“Sometimes one sees writers just standing before it, like early hominids in front of a monolith,” the Gawker Media founder says. “But the best exclusives do get rewarded,” he goes on, referring to page view-based bonuses.

In a strange way, this story almost seems like an acidic addendum to the much sunnier Times feature on young bloggers a few months back. As if to say to the selected group: We still don't really get what it is you guys do ("Young journalists ... shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought") but, uh, good luck making it in this rat race for more than a year, kids (you'll need it).

In a World of Online News, Burnout Starts Younger [NYT]