By Steph Guthrie
As a news junkie whose smartphone sometimes requires surgical removal from her hand, I have a vested interest in a thriving environment for the creation and dissemination of digital media. That includes the journalists and editors who produce news, the designers and coders who develop apps, the people who engineer hardware, the community managers who spread the word, and much more.
For our Canadian content and technologies to thrive, we need an industry that attracts and keeps not only “the best” people, but an incredible variety of people. Diverse teams perform better than homogenous ones, so we all benefit from ensuring the diversity of communities that produce and distribute digital media. I’m talking diversity in the broadest sense, here, including things like gender, race and socioeconomic class.
The casualization of working conditions (i.e. an increasing reliance on contractors and particularly interns) threatens the potential for a diverse industry. Many careers in digital media require a high-risk “investment” on the front-end for workers – slugging it out in a no-pay or low-pay job whose opportunities for advancement are rapidly dwindling. Only a small slice of the population can afford that risk.
As the handful of major media companies in Canada lay off hundreds of workers, how many of those full-time internal roles will be partially replaced by a combination of contract work and unpaid interns? How many will not be replaced at all, shrinking the number of decent-paying and often unionized jobs in the sector? And what kind of leverage do independent contractors and interns have to respond to this shifting climate in any way other than to look out for Number One?
When the Canadian Media Guild approached me about creating a walled online community for digital media workers, it was an easy sell. This kind of platform can serve as a useful complement to more formal efforts to organize Canadian digital media workers. It can connect us with people, organizations and initiatives that share our goals and value our skills and knowledge. Just as importantly, it is a place to share experiences with others in our field without fear of being watched by our bosses, as on a Twitter account or Facebook post.
The MediaTech Commons is designed to help us share information and build confidence to demand better, both in negotiations with our bosses and in our careers writ large.
Steph Guthrie is the moderator of the MediaTech Commons. She’s an internet animator and a full-time feminist.