I’ve talked a lot about work, my work, other people’s work, the importance of work and difficulties of getting work on this blog. And in fear of both repeating myself and sounding very frustrated, which I am to be quite honest, I’m going to talk about challenges of getting media work when you’re blind.
First things first. Getting a media job is hard for anybody. The competition is fierce wherever you are in the world and even in supposedly uncorrupt Norway, nepotism rules in the media industry. So it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that is the key to land that lucrative job.
I have been trying for quite a while to both work freelance and get a media job here in Norway so that I can make money tow work more freely with my music, although my situation on that front is slowly but surely improving. Working freelance has its own challenges and I’m not going to discuss them in this post, but applying for media jobs is a bit like hitting my head against a brick wall.
Today a journalist is supposed to be able to do everything from writing and sub editing to photographing and creating video content. This is good in one way I guess. Media houses everywhere are cutting costs and thus jobs and it makes sense for them to employ multi-talented people. But the truth is that leaves out some good talent. And not just blind media professionals who are talented on the writing and the audio side of journalism. I have come to understand that just because your eyes work, it’s not synonymous with being good at creating visual content.
Ironically, I am quite good when it comes to visual content, because I have an intuitive understanding of what illustration work with what story. And I’m not the only blind media professional who have these skills. However, looking at most media jobs and seeing “Good eyes for pictures” or “Video editing skills” as a description of most of them, I feel like the world is trying to mock me and I take it personal. Most of my sighted journalist friends have to work with visuals in their jobs, even for radio. So the visuals seem unescapable.
The really sad thing is that instead of looking at my talent and ask me how to get around the visual challenges; I am just told that I don’t meet all the qualifications. And in some cases, I’ve been told right out that I’d not be able to do the job because of the visual skills required.
In Norway there is absolutely no reason not to employ someone on those grounds. Government funded assistance and secretary funds make it possible for a blind person with the appropriate skills to operate efficiently within any media organization. And in England there is Access to work which helps with similar things.
I wouldn’t apply for a job as a photo journalist. But I could instruct a work assistant or secretary to film certain things for a documentary or news report and they tell them how to edit it. I would still be the one creating the content. They would just press the buttons of the most likely, inaccessible software for me. Because that’s another thing. only the BBC in my experience have software I can use for audio editing. However, with today’s technology it’s possible to make audio editing programmes screen reader friendly. And in case of getting a job, it could be fixed. At least with some software.
My journalist friends in the UK often ask me why I’m not doing more journalism work, since I’m a good a journalist. My only answer is that I haven’t been able to show my talent to someone who matters and that I don’t know the right people. I have made full length radio documentaries, presented live current affairs shows and worked for one of the world’s best mediahouses, so I’ve got to know journalism, a little, right? But these days I’m wondering whether I’m kidding myself that I have journalism talent at all.
Again, it boils down to one thing. Attitude. There isn’t something wrong with me, but with the society who produce employers who don’t want to give chances to people who have to work a little bit differently, but who can work just as good and efficient as any of their other employees. I’ve talked about me, myself and I in this post. But I dedicate this rant equally to any visually impaired media professionals who are facing similar challenges. And wonder sometimes whether they do have talents. I don’t blame you if you’ve lost sight of it during your jobsearch. And if you’ve been lucky enough to land the dream job and keep it. Cudos to you and your hopefully liberal thinking employers.