During one of his segments, US late night talk show host Seth Meyers uses a fire extinguisher to abruptly blow out the candles on a birthday cake. If the phrase “Party’s over!” was a gif, this scene would be it.
That gif is what comes to mind when I think about journalism. I’ve been in this industry for a decade (which is both a long time and a short time), and to me and a lot of my contemporaries, it sometimes feels like we joined the industry when the “good old days” were over.
It’s like we walked in during a birthday party and the hosts took one look at us and decided to blow out the candles on the cake and throw it in the bin. Party over. Go home. The party, of course, was the golden age of print, when newspapers and magazines were making – and as a result, spending – loads of money. Back when it meant there was at least one person for every job.
But with the economy being the way it is and print sales in decline, it means that some of us got into the industry when retrenchments were a regular (and traumatic) occurrence, and as a result we’ve always had to be multiskilled. Now, more often than not, you have one person filling in multiple roles, and as draining as that is (not just physically but mentally), it’s also proven to come in handy because one’s post-journalism options aren’t as limited as they previously were.
There was a time when people with multiple titles were made fun of (on the Japanese dating reality show Terrace House, for instance, one of the contestants is often accused of lacking ambition because he does many things instead of just one).
You know, the ol’ “jack of all trades, master of none” cliché.
And while of course you should be able to pursue and perfect one thing if you so wish, there is nothing wrong with pursuing more than one path. In fact, it might be better in the long run because it increases your chances of being adaptable in this changing world of work.
That’s why this month we have a few stories focusing on being multidisciplinary: in our career paths, in our hobbies, in our thinking, in our healing and in our education. And who better to embody being good at more than one thing than our cover stars, novelist/ doctor/ activist Kopano Matlwa and actor/ director/ producer/ presenter Dineo Lusenga?
And if you do want to be multiskilled but are too afraid to start, perhaps this edition might give you a nudge in the right direction(s).