First and foremost, I am an editor. I have been ever since my junior year of college, when I realized that despite my desire to become a reporter, I was fiercely uncomfortable talking to people I didn’t know. (Wonder why that career choice didn’t pan out!)
After I graduated from college, I worked as an editor and page designer at a local newspaper. As a first job, it was everything I could have asked for. I was constantly learning new things in an exciting environment, and I got to do what I loved best: edit.
However, there were some parts of my experience that were less than desirable. I kept odd hours, working from 4 p.m. to midnight, and they hinged on whether we had a slow news night or an eventful one. All it took was one phone call to completely alter the course of an evening, and though that kind of unpredictability was exciting for a while, it certainly took its toll.
While the topics we reported on were important, I also found myself becoming increasingly depressed. I understand that the purpose of journalism is to inform the public, but at the end of the day, journalists are still people—not machines. Heartbreaking stories left me with an unquellable pit in my stomach that was not quite as disturbing as the realization that I was forcing myself to become uncomfortably desensitized to tragedy as a survival tactic. The bottom line? Though I was doing what I loved, I wasn’t happy.
Back then, Skyword was a mere funky name attached to a job posting I’d found after learning my former position would likely be transferred across the country within the next year. Like other journalists, I stared at my screen, puzzled by the job description and trying to work out what on earth brand journalism or content marketing was. I still didn’t know exactly when I interviewed for the job, despite the countless Google searches and mumbo-jumbo jargon I had committed to memory about “snackable content” this and “SEO” that.
Even as my excitement for working in a stable, burgeoning environment and doing what I loved grew, I was still concerned by the gray area of content marketing and whether I was abandoning my journalistic principles for the sake of a Ping-Pong table and a keg in the break room.
Perhaps the biggest question that passed through my mind as I considered my departure from the journalism industry was, Am I selling out? This phrase, so laced in negativity, still stirs me when I explain my job to others. With an industry like journalism, which weighs so heavily on the concept of ethics, it’s easy to view any deviation from the norm as selling out, especially if a larger paycheck is on the line.
In the aftermath of my decision to leave journalism, I feared being judged by my coworkers, my former classmates, and my mentors. She couldn’t cut it, I worried they’d think. She didn’t have what it takes. I feared my ethics would be deemed compromised, and that my integrity as a professional writer, content creator, and editor would be tinged by my decision to work on behalf of a brand. You’re a journalist, not a marketer, my inner voice hissed.
I was also concerned about being at the mercy of the foreboding “client.” Was I going to have to abandon what I knew to be right in order to please a faceless entity? Was I going to have to write flashy, winking sentences reading, “Buy today and all of your wildest dreams will come true!” all the time? Did I have any idea what I was getting myself into?
Understanding brand journalism was the first step toward making a change. Accepting it was the next.
By highlighting my personal challenges with journalism, I am certainly not saying that all brand journalists are people who couldn’t make the cut—they’re simply people who chose a lifestyle that satisfies their creativity without the emotional baggage and instability that can sometimes come with journalism. Choosing to be a content creator in brand journalism or write for money is not a reflection of a lesser standard of ethics—it’s just one path writers and editors looking to make a living doing what they love can take. There is an artistry in all types of writing, whether you choose to pour your energy into novels, poems, features, hard news articles, or branded content.
This is important to remember if you are considering changing fields and are harboring reservations of what this might mean for your career. The similarities between these types of content far outweigh the differences, and artists should not be shamed for the way in which they choose to practice their craft. At the end of the day, I am an editor. The only thing different is the environment in which I follow my passion.
Though I once went through every negative thought about brand journalism, I am glad that I had the guts to make a necessary change. If you are looking to start your career in brand journalism, join Skyword’s pool of contributing writers to get started writing for top brands.