Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Can journalists (especially freelance) afford to live near their stories?

Vox has an interesting perspective on journalists’ and editors’ earnings.  For non-managers, they are pretty “average”, but Matthew Yglesias writes that they often live in high-cost cities like New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.  I could dispute that:  there are plenty of television stations in the heartland with their own reporters, but jobs in traditional smaller newspapers have dwindled because of consolidation, syndication, and competition with online.  The Vox link is here. We all know that traditional newspaper decline helped fuel the Righthaven copyright trolling. 

Think about the “rich and the poor” or the “evils” of capitalism?  (Yes, “Chess Quotes” continues its barrage on Twitter.)  Look at the front page article by Louise Story and Stephanie Saul. “Hidden wealth flows to elite in New York Condos”, link (the online story seems to supplement the earlier print story).   It’s rather interesting, how co-ops and condos are different, and that in a coop existing boards can screen new owners (which in the past could have kept gay couples out).  It’s also interesting how in the Internet age, the owners of many units, while celebrities, stay secret.  Many are foreign business persons and some have questionable reputations (as slumlords, or for organized crime connections).  

Many owners do help the arts.  One friend gave a concert in a condo overlooking Central Park, owned by a relatively young couple from overseas.  Maybe that’s a tax deduction for the couple. 
So only the highest-paid journalists could afford to live well in Manhattan (or Los Angeles or San Francisco).   The tendency for some actors and artistic celebrities is to buy historic brownstones rather than high rise pads, anyway. 

There’s no question, if you live in Manhattan, a lot you need is right there. (Multiple subway lines, running 24x7, provide redundancy that the DC Metro lacks.  Movies "come out" in NY and LA first.) That’s true for a “retiree” like me who took up “journalism” as a second career.  I lived “between the Villages” in the Cast Iron Building (11th and Broadway) from 1974-1978 but I doubt I could afford to live there now.  It would be déjà vu indeed, the stuff of a dream. Also, locations north of 34th Street are safer from disruptions from floods or hurricanes.  (My favorite location would be near Lincoln Center. Yes, Trump is there.) Same in the outer boroughs;  Bronx is safer than the southern and main parts of Brooklyn.  When you’re in the City, you don’t realize how low-lying most of it is (compared to Washington and a lot of Baltimore’s older sections).

There’s something else about journalism, and especially some of the arts (classical music more than popular music, novel or screenwriting more than actual acting, especially stage): it appeals to somewhat intellectual, introverted people whose compassion is mostly in the head and not necessarily practiced in a lot of hands-on contact with people in need.  Again, it’s about the rich and the poor, and a “winner-take-all” world.  It isn’t sustainable forever.  

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