Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Another day, another chance to shatter kids' dreams

Johnny, I'm sorry. Won't you come on home?

I've been yelling and screaming for years - on this blog, Twitter, and in class - about the complete rethinking and reorganization of the traditional media structure, so you can imagine the spit-out-my-coffee moment when I saw "Johnny's" comment on ChrisD's website yesterday.
January 11, 2011 | 3:36 pm
And the wide-eyed Creative Communications students at RRC want to work in this industry? They’re being set up to fail and the instructors are pushing them towards it.
Word of advice to students: Work in the PR industry, not the broadcasting industry. It’s more secure.
(later post) ...the fact that students are out in the field this week at such stations gaining experience is a bit deceiving to them. Their dreams will be crushed when they land their ‘dream job’ in the industry only to be let go in a few years, or months down the road.

The comment was in response to yesterday's layoffs at Citytv, which is rotten news for people who work in local media, but not surprising, given the state of the local TV industry ("local" meaning local markets around the world, of course, not just Winnipeg). 

That might be why new, social, and mobile media have become the emphasis in Creative Communications across our four majors; on Monday, I had lunch with a former student who just made the leap from traditional journalism to social-media guru for a local organization focused on film and filmmakers, and his experience is becoming more common.

His job is all about new media, but the bedrock skills are PR, ad, J, and media production, which might sound familiar, since they're the four CreComm majors (confession: I'm against "majors" and for a second-year education in "everything." We're talking about it.). 

The entire focus of last semester's ad major was putting together a new-media ad campaign for Berns & Black salon - featuring Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare, and enhanced with old-fashioned publicity and posters.

The ad majors are also writing and designing epubs for the iPad along with graphic designers. Next year, we're looking at app development and content in conjunction with another program at RRC.

As far as I know, we're the only school in Manitoba doing this stuff, which gives our students an expertise that no one else has. That's generally good for employability.

My online response to Johnny:
Kenton Larsen Reply: 
January 11th, 2011 at 6:03 pm
Our students have a choice of four majors; our department and RRC track employment for all grads, including salary range; they’re available to anyone who wants to see them on the college website and at Student Services.

Our emphasis (or maybe I should say mine: I’m not a spokesman for CreComm) has nothing to do with getting an “old-media” job like the kind people dreamed of getting in 1963.

In fact, I go to great measures to argue and emphasize the exact opposite – most recently in yesterday’s Advertising class, where we talked about the entire idea of “scheduled TV shows” being an amusing chestnut of the past and “real reality” online being a far better sell than the “mediated reality” of supposed reality TV shows.

I certainly wouldn’t characterize our students as being “wide-eyed” or easily deceived. I also wouldn’t say that a three-week work placement is setting them up to fail or succeed in the industry – just to give them a little experience to put on their resume when they graduate.
There’s no bait and switch. We discuss “the media industry” with applicants before they enroll, including the new-media industry, so I’d be surprised if anyone felt they’d been deceived or tricked into having their dreams crushed.
I would add to that that I believe in continued employability in communications and that we've only scratched the surface of the market for micro transactions, targeted ads, user-generated content, data-driven entertainment, and feedback consolidation.

My general beliefs about where the communication industry is going: 
  • Sensorial, experiential, and authentic experiences will dominate the industry.
  • Advertising will underwrite the content of almost everything, including films, games, and music and will become more targeted and personal (a far cry from its "non-personal" roots). 
  • Branded platforms will become even more important. Apps are already simple, branded platforms for content - merchandise, ads, and transactions will follow.
  • Broadcast TV will drive people to the Web, the reverse of how it works now, and be available on multiple devices all at once, underwritten by ads or subscriptions or both.  
  • "Gaming" will become more important across the culture and will invade everything, including education. Movies will become 3D interactive games.
  • Media production will continue to exist and thrive online. 
  • TV, Web, radio, music, movies, social media - content and hardware - will compete with each other and we'll buy and use what suits us, depending on WHERE we are. 
On Monday night, we're doing an info session for potential CreComm students and I'll tell them the same things. I hope Johnny is there!


  1. My question for Johnny would be: Is it a better idea to undermine the graduating students' confidence with doom-and-gloom scenarios and unnecessary pessimism? I graduated months ago and still have not found full-time work. However, as I just said in my student survey, I would highly recommend the program, and still feel it was one of the best decisions I've made in my life. I have absolute confidence that I will find a great job, and that the program has created an endless number of opportunities for me in the future.


    I'm with you on the future of media for the most part, but I tend to disagree with "Movies becoming 3D interactive games."

    I'm sure 3D interactive games will exist, and be popular. But movies will still be movies. Not everything has to be interactive to be interesting, involving, and emotional. I don't think I would enjoy "The Godfather" more if I could earn badges, experience multiple generations in the life of an Italian-American family through 25 different playable characters, and unlock Fredo in an "I shot JR" t-shirt. I'll always trust The Finchers, the Scorseses, and the Coens of this world to just give me their version of events.

  2. I graduated in June 2002 and didn't get full time employment until November of 2003. And those were the "good days" of journalism.

    I'll say this: Keeping your expectations in check is huge. If you go into a news organization expecting to run the place, your going to be laughed out of your interview. If you are willing to take a "foot in the door" job with a mediocre salary and use it as a launching pad for your career, why no go for it?

    LOVE the idea of no majors in 2nd year. The one "single" thing that's landed me jobs in this biz is to learn EVERYTHING. "Jack of all trades, master at none" - that should the the title of your new major, perhaps... ;)

  3. I shook my head when I read Johnny's comment. He definitely should be coming to the information night, because he seems unaware of what we've been learning in school.

    One of the most valuable things I've learned is how to use social media in the communications industry. Social media is so important, and the fact that I understand it and use it will put me at an advantage in the job market.

    I understand that when I graduate, it won't be easy. I won't be making tons of money right away, and I'll be happy with a job that feeds me and teaches me more about the industry. We all have to pay our dues before moving up the ladder, and I'm ready for that and excited to continue my education in the workforce.

  4. On "authentic experiences..."

    Yes, such is the subject of a recent post of mine regarding the political leaders of this province and the use of social media. Check out the resistance in the comments.

    And I'm the dude without a freakin' job. Let me run your Twitter account, honestly, if you're too lazy to do it, and credit success to your inherent genius and natural swag, whats to lose on a kid screaming to everyone what kind of sandwich you had for lunch ito the Al Gorean-verse where nobody lives?

    Not like it matters.

  5. J, you really don't have work? That's really a shameful waste of talent, and I mean it. I'm truly surprised.

    Granted, not every student's experience is the same. I graduated months ago and found full-time work shortly after with good pay in a major that received the most doom and gloom out of all of them. I also have more great opportunities coming down the pipe.

    Like Tyler said, students need to realize they need to take that "foot in the door" job with a mediocre salary and use it as a launching pad. That should probably be more reinforced in the classroom.

    Anyways, I've said it before and I'll say it again:

    Keep the majors, but as a third-year option only like the graphic design program. If people choose to go the third year route, let them earn a degree as the college can now grant them, and scrap the joint program with the U of W entirely.

    The fact that the college can now grant degrees and has degree programs in nursing and construction management, it's time to see apply it toward its "flagship program."

  6. It sounds to me like Johnny didn't make it through Cre-comm... And is bitter because of it..

    It is all about keeping your expectations in check (Like Tyler said).

    I learned a lot more than what was taught to us in Cre-comm. The auto-fail mentality is engrained in my psyche. (Thanks Kenton)

    And Jay, The Godfather video game was actually pretty fun. Not as good as the movie, but still a good waste of time.


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