Journalism is becoming a high tech industry, and that means that career norms for journalists are approaching those of high tech workers — shorter job tenures, working for smaller companies, and much more. Here are ten things that can help journalists survive Web 2.0 with their sanity intact:

  1. High tech is a boom and bust industry. We get laid off when the economy is good, and we get laid off when the economy is bad. Investors get fed up and pull the plug on small companies; at big companies, the CEO must, on ceremonial occasions, throw a few sacrificial victims to the volcano gods on Wall Street. We don’t even take it personally anymore. If it weren’t for layoffs, we’d never take a vacation. If you value your sanity, have some savings and don’t take out big mortgages.
  2. Jobs are temporary. Friends are forever. High tech offers reincarnation without having to die. The person who’s your boss now is someone you’ll hire as an employee later; then they’ll be your boss again. Everyone gets recycled. Act accordingly: you will see them again.

  3. Nobody has the right qualifications. If you think you aren’t qualified to work at Google or Yahoo!, you haven’t worked there. People with all sorts of backgrounds have jobs at high tech companies. The best way to get a job at the New York Times is to start by getting a job at Facebook. Bring your values to online companies; bring your skills back to news companies. Repeat.

  4. Company loyalty is obsolete. Think projects, not companies. Look for interesting projects, not prestigious companies. You’ll stay with a set of ideas for a decade or more; those ideas may get housed in half a dozen companies during that time. Companies can’t and won’t provide stability, and even prestigious, exciting companies have a ton of boring, dead end jobs.

  5. Time is on your side, but only if you take it. Why pick up that “Learn to Build Google Maps” book if you don’t know how long it will take for you to be able to do something useful – or even if you’ll be able to do something useful when you’re done? Set your goal-orientation aside for an hour or two a week for study and experiment with something that excites you without any practical expectation of results. On the job training just makes you an expert in something you don’t love.

  6. Breaking things is a privilege. Progress is about alternating breaking and fixing. Anything 100% working is 100% dead.

  7. RTFM. It’s all they really teach at MIT. Yes, read the, uh….fine….manual. The whole thing. Really.

  8. Write the manual. No manual? Write the fine manual. Your newspaper website lets users blog…and has no manual? No video tutorials? Why not? Create the documentation and you don’t just know it – you wrote the book on it.

  9. Narrow comprehensiveness. The web rewards narrow comprehensiveness – “everything about something.”

  10. Make it free. Traditionally, the news industry has taken stuff that’s free – public information, for example – and made it worth money by adding editorial value. On the web, the most successful companies don’t build, they collapse. They take something that used to cost money and make it free. What costs money in your region that you can make free? Craigslist isn’t the only one that can play that game.