In this week's edition of The Daily Banter Mail Bag, Bob, Ben and Chez discuss the Comcast Purchase of Time Warner Cable, Careers in Media and Hot Dates.
1. Restrictions on monopolies may have eased but how can a deal as big as Comcast and Time Warner Cable be legal? Is there anything average people can do to stop something like this? I guess writing to your congressman/woman is out.
Ben: There's always things people can do - it's just a matter of numbers really, and a willingness to protest, lobby their representatives etc etc. More broadly speaking, this is why Americans need to keep Republicans out of government at almost any cost. Why? Because they stack government departments that regulate these type of mega mergers with corporate shills. During the Bush administration, the Justice Department brought a grand total of one case against a business on anticompetitive grounds. Yes, you read that correctly. One case. Hopefully the government will do its job and the merger won't go through. I have no idea what the chances are though, sorry.
Chez: Ha. It can easily go through and, no, there's nothing you can do to stop it if the right wheels are greased. At first glance you'd think there's just no way something like this would be approved but we're well into an era of mega-mergers and buyouts like this one; at some point there will be maybe two media companies and everyone else -- including all of us -- will have to suck it. That said, this has to be given an okay by both the FCC and either the DOJ or FTC, and that means there is actually room to make a lot of noise. If enough people do it, it might have an impact of some kind.
Bob: I think the Federal Trade Commission still has to sign off, but I could be wrong. Anyway, the only solution is to reinstate the Sherman Anti-trust Act. It can be done, but it'll take a lot of tenacious, smart activism along with plenty of legislative will to put this monopolistic egg back in the shell.
2. I'm a student thinking about a career in media. What's your average day like working for a website and what advice would you give me?
Chez: Advice? Go do something else. The problem with media careers these days is that you work absolutely insane hours and you often don't even do it for the kind of great pay, strong benefits, and James Bond-esque perks that a big time media career used to bring with it. The flip side of that is that it tests just how dedicated you are to wanting to work in this field. My average day begins at 6am and ends at around 10pm. That's almost every weekday, with a shortened schedule on Sunday. (I try as hard as I can to leave at least Saturday completely free.) I've had plenty of days where I've been staring at my computer for 15 hours and finally say to myself, "Normal people don't do this." But actually, if you're in media now, yes, you do. The world needs people willing to do it, though -- and I can't complain one bit about what we do here at the Banter or my role as a columnist -- so if you're really feeling it, then have at it.
Bob: Pressure under fire. Done this before. Don't want it to be his first surgery. Applied himself well. These are things I'd have confidence in the young M.D.
You're talking about journalism. Never mind. (Reference for this answer here.) The thing about this career is that you're almost always doing it, especially with the addition of social media. My day starts at 7 a.m. and doesn't end until I go to sleep. I would suggest starting a blog and just write. Go and go and go. Promote your stuff and keep going. By the way, you can pick up some extra beer money with fundraisers, Google ads and commission-based services like the Amazon Associates program. It took me just under ten years of blogging for ad money before Ben came along and paid me to write.
Ben: Hmmm. Well, when I started out doing this stuff (around 2007) it was completely and utterly hopeless. I couldn't get work anywhere as the print industry had collapsed and no one had any money for online media. That's really why I started this site as I desperately wanted to do something resembling journalism/writing in the internet era. Would I recommend my path to anyone? Fuck no. It's scary as hell going out by yourself, and we've survived quite literally by the skin of our teeth. However, I would always encourage young journalists to do what they love, and thankfully there are more jobs in new media companies than there were seven years ago. I'd carve a niche for myself pretty quickly - develop a personal brand and following by working for free if necessary. Once you get a reputation, finding work won't be as hard as it is putting job applications in blind and hoping someone reads your file. Oh yeah, and never, ever give up. That's the only way you'll make it.
3. If you could go on a date with anyone alive who would it be?
Bob: If I wasn't madly in love with my wife, and we had never met, I'd go with Tamron Hall.
Chez: Helen Mirren. Or maybe Liz Phair. I was gonna ask Ben out but he doesn't like to cuddle. (All of this assumes my very wonderful girlfriend wasn't in the picture or just wanted a picture of me and Helen Mirren.)
Ben: My girlfriend reads this (occasionally), so I'm saying her. If she isn't, Kim Basinger in the 1980's, without a doubt.