14th December 2018

Change of Plans

For as long as I remember, I wanted to be a journalist. At 16, the ambition to see my byline in Cosmopolitan Magazine made me join Women’s Own as an intern. It took 13 years for me to finally make that happen, only to realise that the print industry is struggling for survival, and I need a plan B.

Recent news from the publishing industry in Pakistan is discouraging, at best. Just today, Express Tribune laid off their reporting team in Peshawar and Dawn reduced the number of its Sunday magazine’s pages. Prior to this, there had been multiple editorial team cut downs and senior staff members made redundant across major publishing houses in the country.

The same wave swept the UAE in 2015, when one of their oldest radio channels was shut down due to a financial crunch. This was followed by one too many magazines biting the dust, and the remaining ones stretching their staff thin. Unfortunately, it has only been downhill since then, and the latest to close doors was Ahlan! Arabia.

In contrast, publishing is still relatively strong in Germany, and newspaper is still a widely accepted source of information. Online lacks credibility, and the feel of paper is preferred over pleasure of click. However, not everything is rosy in this part of the world either; Statista predicts a slow and steady decline in the revenues for publishing industry and Handelsblatt recently reported a decline in book sales.

What fellow journalists have to say

To validate my worst fears, I asked a few peers in the industry about how they see the future of print journalism, and here is what they had to say:

Future of print media??? Its already dead! For someone who loved paper, I don’t remember the last time i went through a magazine or newspaper. Its all on the web for me now.

Andleeb Rana, Xpoze, Pakistan

I think print journalism is dying, in slow motion. Circulation for newspapers and magazines is on steady decline. Print was cost effective once but not anymore, and the future is unclear.

Adnan Ishaq, DW Urdu, Germany

I wish I could predict the future but my guess is that we’re looking at long form print journalism and special issues rather than regular editions.

Devina Divecha, hospitality journalist, UAE

Unless there is a new pattern put in place for profits of print publication that reflect the digital time that we are currently in, printing would be destructive to a growing business.

Kristle Haynes, The 7th Magazine, UAE

I believe what we understand to be print journalism at this time will evolve and grow into other modes of reaching us. But the value and quality of reporting those two words represent are highly needed, and will always be in demand.

Nadia Zaffar, Global News, Canada

A platform where you have to stay relevant every other minute, you report everything that comes your way. There is hardly any validation; it’s a mad race infact. Print has sanity checks. It goes through the traditional scanners. Therefore print should be allowed to prevail.

Sadiq Saleem, UAE based Pakistani Writer

Not very assuring, especially if my professional future depends on it.

Plan B

So, where does that leave my ambition and career prospects? In uncertainty and jeopardy. In between my many transatlantic moves in last five years, I have fought long and hard to stay relevant, penning a column here and scoring a feature there. But those bylines cannot equate to a career, and hence I am forced to agree – it is time for a change of plans.

Words and writing will always be my first love. The second best option, based on my experience, skill set and level of interest, would be public relations (PR). This is the other end of press communication spectrum. A PR Manager essentially creates and delivers news for journalists to work with. In recent times, a PR professional deals with press as often as they handle influencers and online content creators (like me), to position their brands among predefined segments of society.

I decided to write this post because a lot of my readers are as passionate about written word as I am, and if print journalism is something that you aspire for, it might be time to step back and take stock of all your options. Journalism industry always had a low pay scale but the benefits and perks (from lifetime supply of shampoos to all-paid holidays in Greece), the sum wasn’t all that bad. But with magazines closing down at the rate that they are, freelance budgets disappearing in thin air, and full-time editorial staff giving big foot a run for his money in terms of existence, it’s time to get off the sinking boat.

I have decided to make the switch, professionally. I have already managed PR for beauty, fashion, lifestyle and political entities, so the turf is familiar and comfortable. 

Does that I mean that writing is a thing of past (yes, I am loving throwing cliches around like confetti in this post)? Hell to the no. Cherry Cross will now be the outlet to pen my thoughts, reviews and everything in between (events, announcements, travel features, expat life in Germany, etc). It will have short and snappy posts, as well as lengthy pieces like this one. I feel good about finally consolidating my love and attention, and putting in the work to truly establish Cherry Cross.

I am 50 shades of anxious about making this switch, at 30. But I am convinced that it is the right thing to do. So, fingers crossed.

About Shaheen Rajan 1153 Articles
Need coffee, romance, fashion and manicure to survive. KHI - DXB - CGN

4 Comments on Change of Plans

  1. Wishing you lots of luck with a new career. It is handy having the world at you fingertips but there’s no anticipation of walking to buy your favourite glossy mag each week anymore.

  2. I agree with Sadiq, spoken like a true journalist. Well, thats true and sad, every one is one media entity these days, which is making it worse for journalism. Not pointing fingers, but to get one article done, it requires, research, endless re-writes, notes from editors, and then whole process of designing and what not. I would just say, digital can never compete with print’s quality of content.

    • I can’t agree more. Digital is quick and surface level. Most online readers have attention span of three year olds, and that makes it impossible for online journalists to go any deeper. I think it all comes down to the decreasing number of people who read. The shift was online instead of print, and now pictures and videos instead of text in whatever form.

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