Go forth and make media

Before the lecture room began to fill up at MTSU yesterday, I talked with a gal in the front row named Danielle. She’s seeking a communications degree and supports herself by working at a local supermarket. I guess this is a fairly typical situation in the halls of higher education.

“What’s your gift,” I asked, “and what do you want to do with this degree?” She told me she wanted to write music reviews for a magazine some day. “What are you waiting for?” I probed. She told me that, well, she had just begun writing for a site called Popularity.com but that she wasn’t getting paid (yet). Good for her. She’s already doing what she’s going to school to learn to do. Think about that for a moment. No, think about it for several moments.

I encouraged her to create a music review blog and begin publishing her work immediately. I told her how to find other music review bloggers and gave her some thoughts on finding her “tribe.” Danielle will do fine, I predict.

This was a precursor to my entire message to those 300 students, and many came up afterwards to thank me. In a world where the playing field is level and anybody can “publish,” why are we waiting for some existing publisher to come along and validate what we know intuitively we can do? “Go forth and make media,” was my closing statement. “Blossom where you’re planted. DO, don’t wait.”

One student said his interests were cars and music. We walked through possibilities of creating “cars and music” media.

What are your interests?

Two different people asked me if they could start their own record label. Hell, yes. Go find a geek in the computer classes to help you with the technology and go make records, er, mp3s. Downloading is the new distribution method.

One young man has become THE go-to guy for a high school sports team. He runs a website and is seeking advertisers. He’s doing the hyperlocal thing. Good for him. He’ll do well.

The institution of higher learning needs to take a step back and reflect on what’s going on around them. The “one potato, two potato, three potato, four” formula of go to school, get a job, work hard, climb the ladder and be happy is coming apart at the seams, and nowhere is it truer than in the schools of “mass communications” (what mass?). I’m fully aware that this is not a popular message, but if education wants a seat at the future table, it had better be prepared to rise above defending the status quo or it’ll never see what’s coming.


  1. A guy I know posted this, which I think is somewhat relevant, if not perfect advice for everyone:

    A year ago, I did a guest lecture gig at my alma matter, Columbia College in Chicago, for a graduate writing class.

    One of the students, a guy named Marcus Sakey, offered to buy me a beer after class. We went to a nearby watering hole and began to talk shop.

    Marcus wrote lit fiction, and was pursuing his Masters in the hope that one day he’d be able to write and sell a book.

    I gave him my opinion–an MFA won’t sell a book. Only a good book will sell a book. School and study is something you do INSTEAD of write.

    I also told him that the market for lit fiction isn’t very large, and asked if there were any genres he liked to read.

    Marcus liked Dennis Lehane, who writes crime fiction.

    “Then you need to drop out of school and write a crime novel,” I said.

    [Marcus did exactly that, and then stuff happened!]

    Two months ago, my friend finished his first novel, called THE BLADE ITSELF.

    It was good. Damn good.

    Marcus queried some agents, and got two big ones interested. He signed with a great agency, who went out with his book a few weeks ago.

    A few days ago, Marcus called, saying he’d gotten a modest offer.

    The next day, he’d gotten a counter-offer, which was considerably better.

    The day after that, he had a two book deal and was earning more money than I am.

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