Opinion

Entrepreneurial journalism

Zan Azlee

Zan Azlee is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer, New Media practitioner and lecturer. He runs Fat Bidin Media www.fatbidin.com

JAN 27 — In one of my previous columns several weeks ago, I wrote about not wanting a lot of money for my work as a journalist.

Many who read it seem to agree with my idealism (fuuyo!), but many also seemed to think that making money isn’t important.

I don’t want people to think that working in journalism or the media means that one will live poor and hungry forever.

What I believe is that one must be resourceful and enterprising in whatever one does.

A term that I particularly like is entrepreneurial journalism, which describes what I ideally think journalists should constantly practise.

A group of college students recently interviewed me for their class assignment and it was regarding working as a journalist.

One of the students said that his lecturer told him that being a journalist means working long hours for very little pay.

I have to disagree. Journalism and the media have provided me with a very adequate quality of life (or maybe this is just by my meagre standards!).

Many seem to think that to be a journalist, one needs to be an employee and work for a news organisation and spend the rest of one’s life getting a meagre pay cheque.

Well, this is where entrepreneurial journalism comes in. Who says you need to be working as an employee for the rest of your life if you are a journalist?

Look at it as a business. You are a content producer and provider for clients. And these clients can be the news and media organisations.

In fact, a book I recently finished reading entitled “Frontline: Reporting from the World’s Deadliest Places” indirectly advocates this concept.

It’s a true story about a group of freelance war reporters who banded together to form an agency so they could pool their content and sell it to television stations.

They were pretty successful in their day and I have to say that this group of journalists was pretty entrepreneurial.

Actually, you don’t even have to be in a group to be entrepreneurial. Being a solo journalist can also be a good opportunity.

By being alone, cost can be kept low. The technology required to produce content these days is also very consumer-friendly.

And when costs are low, you can easily offer good rates on your content to news and media organisations while still being able to keep a decent profit margin.

In my case, I also believe that producing content as a solo journalist even improves the quality of the content as it makes it more intimate and raw.

And since the content that you are producing is your own, you can build a good revenue stream for it as long as you license it out instead of selling the copyright.

Hence, you can sell the same content to different markets. For example, if you sell a story to the Malaysian market, you can still sell it to other countries or regions.

There are also other business models that you can pursue, such as sponsorships and advertising, or even branded content. The key word here is “entrepreneurial”.

So who says you need to be stuck working for “the man” for your entire professional life earning a meagre salary?

Even with that being said, I actually know many people who work in news and media organisations as employees, but are actually well compensated by their employers.

And it’s because they are really good at what they do.

So at the end of the day, I truly believe that it doesn’t matter what profession you choose to do, if you love it and do it well enough, the rewards will come.

But you need to be good at it and entrepreneurial enough. And, most importantly, you need to love it enough to want to be good at it and entrepreneurial enough.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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