Is it worth it? That seemed to be the underlying question of Lobato and Thomas’ The Informal Media Economy. Is it worth the overtime, the low pay, the stress, the lack of higher, more profitable opportunities just to be able to call yourself a media professional? For some people, it probably is. The work is probably fulfilling, enjoyable, and exactly what they wanted for their professional life. For others, it’s probably hell.
Having not yet entered the ‘media industry’ (and not sure if I ever will, honestly), I don’t know where I would stand on the ‘worth it or not’ spectrum. I’ve read books by writers, such as Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? (2015) that detail 14 hour work days, with naps taken on the floor of a writer’s room and thought ‘I would deal with that for the opportunity to work that job’. That being said, working on an American network comedy like The Mindy Project would be a dream come true and I would probably be too delirious to know what time it was. In reality though, would a seemingly more achievable job in an Australian start-up media company be worth working the same hours? Probably not, but I’d do it anyway, convincing myself that it’s the only way to get a foot in the door.
Lobato and Thomas ask ‘how can we distinguish work from pleasure, and pleasure from self-exploitation?’ (pg. 70), but I wonder weather there needs to be a distinction. If we find our work pleasurable which, let’s face it, is the dream, then does it matter that our pleasures are work? And as long as we continue to find joy in our work and endeavours, can working hard really be called self-exploitation? Are we exploiting ourselves if we are doing what we love? Maybe if we stop loving our work, yet we continue to throw all our energy and resources behind it, can we then say we are self-exploiting.
The Informal Media Economy throws up some tricky questions for a final semester media student. But it also reaffirms that it is passion and joy that should drive our pursuits, with success and money playing into whether we still feel the pull of a media pathway.
Ramon Lobato and Julian Thomas, 2015, ‘Work’ in The Informal Media Economy, Polity Press, Cambridge UK, ch.3.