MMJs Love Their Jobs, But Often Don't Feel Safe

Feb 28, 2017

By Tom Burton

Multimedia journalists are in every broadcast market, including the top 25, and they enjoy their work. But, they are often worried about their safety while working alone and their managers and coworkers don’t understand or respect their positions.

These insights come from a survey by Matt Pearl, an MMJ who works in Atlanta and writes at tellingthestoryblog.com about the challenges facing solo video journalists. Almost 100 journalists responded about their jobs writing, shooting, researching and editing video journalism all on their own. The MMJs who responded were predominately young, with 70 percent under 30. Women made up 58 percent of the survey.

Among the takeouts, Pearl noted that MMJs often feel misunderstood and under appreciated by managers and coworkers who act as if a solo journalist is less than being a single-task broadcast journalist.

“Too often, the cues MMJs receive are that what they’re doing is a cut below what they could be doing,” Pearl told the NPPA.

Safety concerns are another area Pearl said really stood out in the survey. More than 40 percent of the MMJs said they had times when they didn’t feel safe in the field, especially when doing live shots. Working alone with expensive equipment and often at crime scenes can attract unwanted attention.

“I don’t feel safe in many places and there is no way to defend myself,” wrote one respondent. “I often go to a generic safe space and lose creativity so I know people will leave me alone.”

These challenges make it difficult for many MMJs to see themselves in this job 10 years from now. Unless there are changes from management, Pearl sees an exodus looming.

“It saddens that many talented journalists will leave,” Pearl said.

So why would anyone do the work of several people for what is often less pay than a single-skill coworker? The survey indicates that MJJs love the job.

“Many of the MMJs, if not all, felt enthusiastic about the job,” Pearl said. The most positive response on the survey was to the “I enjoy being an MMJ” statement, where 50 percent of the respondents gave it the top two highest ranks of “agree.”

Though the “one-man band” job was once seen as an entry-level position at small stations, Pearl says that today, all markets have MMJs and that it is possible to build a career around solo journalism. Being able to have complete ownership of stories is perhaps the thing MMJs like the most.

“I love the freedom it gives me to take risks, the ability to truly tell a story in my voice, and the satisfaction I get when I produce a great story and know I did it all by myself,” wrote one respondent.

You can review more data and the survey at tellingthestoryblog.com Pearl also has a new book out called “The Solo Video Journalist: Doing It All and Doing It Well,” available on Amazon.