Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Typewriter Works Just Fine

I may have actually used this line back in the early 1990s when the personal computer was all the rage and the Internet was becoming populous. Back then, it was Yahoo over Google.

As a writer getting published in the local newspapers and national magazines, I actually prided myself on being loyal to the typewriter. It's not that much work to revise, I said. I completed two book manuscripts on the typewriter, I'd proudly state. Meanwhile, my friends and colleagues would look at me as if I had a third head.

Then I noticed the freelance gigs were drying up. Editors wanted their stories emailed, not faxed. They wanted the electronic files. It wouldn't have mattered if I were a Pulitzer Prize winner.

So what I did was stay late at my day job and type out articles for my local editor, download them on a floppy disk, and drive the disk over to his office. Accompanying these stories were also photographs, which I had to take to a certain developer that was under contract by the paper, when they were ready, pick them up and drive them over to the editor. That's a lot for one story and doesn't even include the face-to-face interview with the subject.

Soon I broke down and got a computer.

Now I could write the stories at home, load them on the floppy disk and drive them over to my editor. I was terrified of the Internet and all its evil viruses and trolls. I still had to make those two trips to the photofinishing place.

Finally, I had enough. This is WAY too much work. I saw how the computer was incomparable to the typewriter. Oh my God, what was I thinking! Now a new world opened up and I could email the story and save myself a trip across the city (except for the photofinishing place).

I've never looked back.

Now I see the same thing happening, only with Internet media. People are terrified to learn the social networks, to ditch their traditional methods for more advance ones. If it isn't already, it will soon impact their business. They will see opportunities dry up. Why? People want to be communicated with in the platform of their choice, not yours.

Sadly, few educational institutions are teaching this because the curriculum, administrators, and teachers have been schooled from a previous era and either haven't deemed learning it is important or there isn't enough qualified personnel to teach it. 

But graduates are experimenting the impact of not knowing this. Some are finding it difficult to find work, no matter how many degrees are behind their name. Quite frankly, if you have an MBA in marketing and public relations, I personally can't hire you unless you are well versed in and actually participate in Internet media. Businesses are hiring the person with the degree because they are desperately hoping they will help them catch up with the times. However, because too many are being taught how to use Internet media badly, businesses feel justified in not needing to move forward because "they tried Facebook and it didn't work."  

Here are some comments from recent grads that show the state of where we are today:

"Everything is going digital now and people need to learn how use it, or eventually we will have another epidemic of illiteracy... but this time with smart devices."

"I'm a recent college graduate, and I probably would not be able to take over a social media campaign with just the knowledge I got from my courses. All I learned was textbook information on what marketing was. A lot of the marketing/communication jobs also expect some Adobe program skills along with web design. In addition to that, many relevant jobs require some sort of analytic experience with social media and SEO practices. But I didn't learn any of that! My marketing courses had me create marketing campaigns, but we ignore the evaluation part of the plans, which I think is one of the most important part of marketing. Knowing how your marketing campaign turns out and how to measure the success is so important today."

"The educational system appears deeply divided in America. I meet some people who have graduated college, but you wouldn't know it unless they told you, because they are dumber than a box of rocks! I think some of the private colleges and for profit schools are churning out worthless degrees. Simply having a degree doesn't make the person fit for the job. The real question is whether or not that candidate has the required skills to get the job done! Technology changes incredibly fast so we have to keep up."

I plan on doing my part to try and bridge these alternate universes. At least if I can arm people with a general understanding of the platforms and how to make them work -- also steer them from the bad advice they're already getting from those non-experts, perhaps graduates will be well versed before they enter the workforce and it will ease the frustration you hear in the comments above.

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