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Majoring in creative writing in the 1950s-1960s and today's robot journalists in some newsrooms: Robot writers never nap

What college and careers were like in publishing-media-writing in the 1950s-1990s+.
Anne Hart, Photography and Book.

When we went to the university in 1959, people majoring in English still had the choice to enter editorial jobs in publishing, newspaper work, or teaching community college and/or high school English. But when we entered university degree programs college then only cost $94 per semester for full-time course programs or were free, if our high school averages were high enough.


Check out this author's personal experience on finding a job and taking a college major focusing on learning skills for working in the media during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s with an English major, creative writing emphasis. The audio MP3 file is on Internet Archive. Or check out this audio at: Careers in the late 1950s and early 1960s-1970s for English majors, what it was like, hour-long talk.


Here’s my hour-long lecture online that you might enjoy listening to online about my college days in 1959, jobs, careers, and lifestyles. The audio file is at Internet Archive.

And back then we knew people with tenured full-time jobs in quiet college libraries with graduate educational technology degrees. They retired with pensions and spent summers traveling in Europe. Today it's different than it was in the late 1950s as far as finding a media-related job. Today, there are more liberal arts graduates than there are jobs available in the media or even in teaching people how to write the news. You have business degree graduates today working in retail as clerks hoping for a promotion to fashion buyer or manager of a mall store.


As more stores closed in this area, you have liberal arts graduates who enjoyed working in book stores looking for jobs in public and university libraries, but there aren't enough jobs available, and those jobs offered to students usually don't pay enough for financial independence.


Is it wise to major in liberal arts when even many science and business majors can't find work locally? Who does find work in the media in Sacramento? You have a shortage of nurses, for example, but it becomes too difficult to get into a program locally in nursing at a four-year college. You have a need for physical therapists, but the waiting list is long and qualifications are tight to qualify.


So do you search for media jobs in other countries or stay in Sacramento and work the retail clerk or temporary office worker route? Or are you overqualified to work as an administrative assistant with a degree in journalism or English, but are not hired because you don't have enough full charge bookkeeping/accounting skills?


Changes have created a need for colleges to have better job training. For those with the interest in liberal arts, there's that plan B alternative, the interdisciplinary major, where job skill training is a reality if you choose the right courses, such as medical journalism and technical writing for English majors with educational technology minors.


Or journalism majors taking courses in forensic DNA informatics so they can work with computer databases while reporting on medical conventions. The publications have merged, and fewer jobs are available. So you have to go tech, but still be a generalist with specialist skills that don't go out of style because they can be easily upgraded through professional associations' seminars.


Higher education is supposed to be about creating self-sufficiency through job training so a person won't end up homeless, dependent upon relatives, or victimized for being in poverty


The public library's and bookstore's purpose is to increase one's knowledge, ethics, and intellect. If four years or more of an expensive public or private university education is spent on only increasing intellect and morality with no job training, the money's wasted.

Make sure your college education is spent finding out how to raise, earn, and save money to prevent becoming a burden in a future relationship.


You go to college to become financially independent. Otherwise you risk remaining in abusive relationships for the free food and rent. You create intellect through books read outside of college.


Don't think for a moment that college isn't a job-training hub. It better be. You've only to look at thousands of college-educated persons out of work long before their retirement years or dependent upon others with incomes.


You're going to college to learn how to have enough money so that social security can never reduce your total income to three figures a month for the remainder of your lifetime with the power to reduce it further when the government decides you've earned a hundred bucks from a freelance article and reduces your spousal social security retirement benefits because you've earned a three figure income one month out of a year in citizen journalism, for example.


Just think of this scenario in your old age. If only you had majored in a subject where they was a great job opening in a relatively secure field, well, a more secure field.

Then you wouldn't be competing with the crowd at the bottom of the pyramid for the scarce monies available as an income. What if you had taken job training in college instead of reading those novels?


Yes, college may be your last opportunity for job training. Don't let the money and years slip by because you'll be spending your golden years in public libraries or bookstores reading everything you thought you needed to learn in college that's intellectual rather than in the job training category. Get the transferable job skills first.


Right now, healthcare training is in. In five years, it may be something else. The key word is transferable--the generalist with the specialist skills that can be transferred from one field to another, where experience is never going to be obsolete and retraining is life-long and without age discrimination when you reach fifty or seventy and still need to work.


Are the days gone when after high-school graduation, you can sit in a public or university library for four years and read all the books you can read like Ray Bradbury did? Or travel like Hemingway did with a fourth-grade education and still write best-sellers? People with some college often are left out of the type of job security needed to become financially independent, pull your own weight, or head a household.

Can you still open a business and become a millionaire entrepreneur with no formal schooling like so many immigrants have done?


And is it true that majoring in liberal arts for a four-year degree (and going no further) is a waste of time? Back in the seventies, even PhDs in the liberal arts were driving cabs because there were too many graduates and too few jobs related to their studies.

When I started university studies in 1959, getting a master's degree in English with emphasis in creative writing did lead to a job for many. First you started in publishing as a typist as long as you could afford to live in New York City (as I did then). Then you work your way up to editor. But the job was never secure.


You could try to get a teaching job once writer's cramp ended your secretarial work. If you were male, you could skip the typing pool and walk right into teaching if you were lucky enough to land a job in the late 1950s, but teaching might wear you out because the new teachers were put into the inner urban schools. The lucky males walked into technical editing work in a secure government job. Today, the competition is keener than it was in the 1950s or 1960s. By the mid to late1970s, jobs were opening in technical illustration with computer corporations.


For females, in the 1950s, with a liberal arts degree, you were last hired, first fired as a typist. To make your job secure in addition to your graduate degree, you had to learn shorthand, speedwriting, or notehand and pass typing and dictation tests. But something happened as the years passed. Publishers merged. Jobs went away. You could audition for a job in public relations, but those jobs went to the journalism graduates majoring in public relations who also took a master's degree in public relations. Yet communications jobs were opening as technical writers. But it's not 1959 any more.


Why do you want to major in liberal arts when you can get the same education at any age in the public libraries? The college majors preparing you for the jobs most in demand usually are overcrowded, impacted, and have a long waiting list to get into. And they can pick and choose who to let in. Don't waste your money on a liberal arts major unless you have a very good reason to take that major, and possibly know where you'll work in what field and how you'll apply what you learned in your courses to transfer to a job in the real world.


Many people select a college major because they like the subject studied, not because employers can't find enough graduates to fill jobs requiring that major. The exception would be teachers of math and science with math and science majors and teaching credentials and persons with degrees in various healthcare occupations, including various technologies, along with state licenses to practice.


Examples would be nursing, occupational, respiratory, radiology, ultrasound, dental hygiene, physical therapies, certain types of social work, especially social work doctorates and social workers with master's degrees as well as law degrees, and allied health care professions. Even paralegals have experienced age discrimination if they've gone back to school to retrain in their forties and fifties.


Pick an occupation that is least likely to fire you if you are past the age that they usually hire. That includes most teaching professions, engineering, software design, animation, certain types of web design jobs, graphic arts, and video game design. Interestingly medical doctors are usually not laid off when they reach their forties, fifties, and sixties, unless they have health issues.


University tuition isn't under $100 a semester any more like it was 50 years ago when I attended college. With private colleges costing around $25,000 annually and state college tuition costs rising so frequently, don't bother going to college if all you're going to do is major in one of the liberal arts courses, unless you're pretty sure of landing a job when you finish that will lead to enough financial security for you to be independent and self-supporting. Here's why.


One example could be Cal State Fullerton. The university in 2009 had been forced to cancel up to 150 class sections for the 2009 fall semester to help the state balance its budget. The cancellations were made in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the largest of the university’s eight schools.


The college hosts most of the university’s traditional liberal arts programs, including sociology, literature, religion, history and philosophy. Campus officials in 2009 said the cuts would affect up to 3,200 students back then when the article was written. And it is possible that deeper cuts could be made in the spring semester, that story noted in 2009. (Other public colleges and universities also have made cuts.)


Let's say you're pretty sure you're going to be a high school teacher of one of the liberal arts subjects. Then major in a practical, but generalist major and minor in the subject you want to teach in the field of liberal arts. For example, if you want to teach English, you'll be competing with thousands of other university graduates and re-entry students for the few jobs available teaching English in most high schools.


The schools can be picky, choosing young students over those homemakers in their late forties returning to college for a teaching credential after the children are back in college and the nest is empty. Think twice if you assume you're going to be hired over the 25-year old completing a graduate degree and credential.


If you're a young student, pick a major that's transferable to other fields. You can be a generalist with transferable skills to other types of work. For example, instead of majoring in English if you like to write, pick a major in technical and science writing. Then take several courses in the type of science you want to emphasize in your writing, for example a minor.


Some people major in one of the liberal arts because they are not doing well in courses that require math skills in practical applications of the math, for example, accounting, informatics, genetics, statistics, neuroscience, or biochemistry. Look at some of the newer majors that have a great outlook for jobs opening and increasing in the next decade. Instead of majoring in fine art, choose graphic design with animation and 3-D modeling using animation software, video editing, or digital media. Take a major in educational technology and minor in technical and science writing.


If you don't do well in math, there are technical jobs waiting that aren't being contracted out overseas. Find out what they are, such as informatics and DNA testing as a minor and technical/science or medical writing as a major.


If you want to pick some of the most practical majors, they're in the healthcare industry--teaching nursing online if you have the appropriate graduate degree and experience, or teaching at a community college level the various healthcare technologies. Another route is to get a four-year degree in vocational education, doing what you like to do, such as technical illustration with computer software, and go on to a graduate degree in vocational education administration.


You can focus on any subject from auto mechanics and repair (now computerized to a large extent) to electronics technology in vocational education, getting a four-year degree and finally a masters with a teaching credential. But with the costs of college so high, don't waste your money on a liberal arts education. You won't have job skills.

If you think a liberal arts degree gives you transferable job skills, you're wrong. What you'll end up with is a last-hired, first-fired job as an administrative assistant, formerly a secretary or clerk. You won't be promoted, not as fast as you'd like, unless your family owns the business.


Many people think a liberal arts major gives them an education in ethnics. No. Sitting in the library during summer vacations and reading books on ethics and moral teachings is just as good to get a liberal arts education in morals, ethics, or philosophy.


You can take courses as electives in foreign languages or even minor in area studies and languages, but for your major, get a job skill that isn't going to become obsolete in five years. Web designers are needed now, but what about in the future when software will do the programming and designing? Where are the jobs not related to opening your own small business at home and competing with a thousand others doing the same work with the same skills?


Find an area that needs your energy. Right now it's in healthcare. If you want to become a lawyer, become a CPA accountant first. At least you'll be able to find a job quicker as an accountant than you'd find a job with no experience as a recent law school graduate clerking for 80 hours a week with the dream of becoming a partner.


If you want a career in publishing, right now it's in digital entertainment and online journalism if you have other skills in a subject. If you want to teach, should you get a PhD in psychology or social work and teach at the university level? The problem really emphasizes the fact that there are too many college graduates with the same or similar skills. There's a mismatch between what people major it, the most popular majors, and what jobs are open.


Not everyone can pass courses in electrical engineering, and if they do, when they reach age 35, they could very well be passed over for the 25-year old just coming out of graduate school with two years of experience already from internships.

What's your best bet? See: Occupations With the Most Job Openings. Also see: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupations With the Most Openings.


You'll see that the jobs with the most openings don't require a college education and don't pay very much either. At present there are too many college graduates and not enough job openings that require a college degree, at least in the field or major in which most graduates have degrees.


That's why being a generalist is as important as being a specialist. You need skills in both areas. Maybe you want a degree in sports medicine management, but how many others will be competing against you with similar degrees for the few job openings?


You could become a registered nurse, for example, and then take a graduate degree in either teaching graduate nursing courses online or in person or add on more skills, such as a specialized field within nursing or an allied field such as respiratory therapy, social work, or even go to law school and become an expert witness. But can you depend on those degrees for a secure, steady job with health insurance, pension plans, and perks, let alone long-term care insurance?


Most jobs opening don't require four years of training and pay little. Few are secure. That's why majoring in liberal arts, for example history or English or fine art (unless you're a talented, gifted illustrator) may be a waste of time for you when jobs are going unfilled because employers can't find anyone with a degree and/or experience in what is really needed. That's your task. Find out what's really needed now and for the next decade.


What's needed right now are nurses and experts in forensic DNA testing, including informatics. Pick a major where you could also apply for a secure job, maybe with the government or a large industry or institution that may not cut jobs so fast. And find a major that insures you against being laid off by an employer. Don't learn one skill that will never be transferable to another job in a different industry.


For example, if you're in medical sales, you can work in sales or healthcare if your degree is in a healthcare profession, for example, nursing or social work, or even law, if you can travel. But if you are not able to work as a nurse, say if older or have disabilities, but can place nurses in home health care environments or screen other nurses for temporary employment, if you have a registered nurse license and a degree, even if you're sitting all day in front of a computer or phone.


Registered nurses in the USA earned a median annual salary of $57,280 in 2006. This is one of the highest paying occupations on this US Bureau of Labor Statistic's list, and also requires more training than all but one other occupation. Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much registered nurses currently earn in your city. Browse the Occupational Outlook Handbook. The Handbook gives you job search tips, links to information about the job market in each State, and more.


The dictation machine typists of the 1950s and 1960s complained of hearing loss from listening to voices all day wearing headphones and typing the words they heard


Who looks out for the hearing loss in middle age or older of all those word processors (formerly called typists) who wear earphones all day typing dictation from various recording machines for professionals who don't do their own keyboarding? Some seniors spent a lifetime career, often 45 years or more typing with ear phones on using a Dictaphone machine or the more modern transcribing equipment. Most of the women who wore headphones all day for decades may have had a hearing loss after retirement if they were listening to those earphones all day long typing transcribed dictation from physicians, lawyers, and various executives.


Those who took fast shorthand and were able to still transcribe notes that became 'cold' after a day, were less inclined to lose their hearing from wearing head phones all day. But the stenographers often complained about writer's cramp from writing those 120 minute shorthand notes with a pencil and steno pad for hours, particularly if they were in the steno pool. The choice was been the steno pad or the dictation machine head phones transcribing from voice recordings. The accounts receivable clerks also wrote all day by hand, signing in checks with a pen or pencil into a huge log book, which also led to writer's cramp for the bookkeeping clerks.


Those were the years before computers. Sometimes blind and/or seeing transcribers spend each day full time transcribing various voice recordings of dictation. Is anyone looking out for their hearing? Without eyesight, their most prized possession is their focused hearing. But who cares for the hearing of anyone wearing headphones all day at work as they translate what they hear into printed word?


Shouldn't for health sake, a robot or a computer software program turn voice into text for professionals--doctors and attorneys or anyone else transcribing speech into text? By the time some of these transcribers retired, they already had begun to need hearing aids.


Nowadays, many people listen to MP3 music devices for hours on end turning up the volume to listen to lectures or music


You shouldn't be listening more than two hours daily with earphones. You also shouldn't fall asleep with earphones playing. And the music or speech volume should not be too loud. Your hearing is precious.


Wearing earphones all day at work year after year is not good for your health, especially your hearing by the time you reach the usual retirement age. The hearing loss may not hit you at 62, but by your mid-seventies to eighties, the hearing loss may progress.

Did you wear head phones/ear phones and listen to dictation as you typed all day long in various doctor's or lawyer's offices? Notice that few doctors warned their transcribers wearing headphones all day that the dictation might affect their hearing if they didn't take breaks or listen fewer than two hours daily of medium to loud volume dictation (to catch the doctor's accent or pronunciation).


Many of these women (and a few men) wearing head phones and typing all day worked throughout the 1950s through the 1980s, some in medical offices or for colleges


What happened to their hearing? And some of these women had college degrees in subjects such as English or history and didn't want to teach or couldn't find jobs in publishing as editors or journalists.


Some seniors with graduate degrees and/or four-year degrees in various liberal arts subjects who didn't pass take the C-Best national exam for teachers or who wanted a job other than teaching may have earned their life time careers using mostly their typing skills, often learned in the 7th grade.


Let's take one example of the perpetual temporary typist with the masters degree in English who used the typing dictation job skill to earn a living for decades to supplement income as a homemaker. In spite of a liberal arts-humanities master's degree in English, only the typing course that she enrolled in during the 7th grade at age 11 1/2 supported her all her working life as far as earning enough money to live on.


Every other skill learned in the university actually never paid enough to propel her above the poverty line. What's the use of being anti-capitalist when all you have in the world is a tiny social security retirement income that you have no idea when it will be taken away at the government's whim?


When you live below the poverty line, like so many of us seniors do, and are well over age 70, all you have to look forward to is playing being the capitalist and fantasizing what life would be like if you had to depend on capitalism as compared to the monthly 'net' three-figure social security check.


As a capitalist, you get to be an independent contractor living below the poverty line for one. That means if you write for various citizen journalism sites, you may or may not get paid. No pay is guaranteed for your labor. And yet, you're a capitalist, a business person, and independent contractor. Independent is the word, but can you live as a capitalist?


Now you take a look at your classmates, for example that kid in middle school who sat in front of you has just sold her home for five million dollars and bought another for 1.5 million dollars. She's the same age as you


What did you do to turn out living below the poverty line in old age? And what did she do to own a Manhattan apartment listed for three quarters of a million dollars for sale last year as well as her parent's house for five million which she sold?


You wonder. She didn't go to college. You have a master's degree in a liberal arts subject. Did it do you any good? Not really. That's my story. Everything in life she earned is based on the typing course she took in the 7th grade. This typical senior survived for 45 years of work life on being able to type more than 60 words per minute, which she learned at age 11 1/2 in the 7th grade in that typing class.


Meanwhile the rich kid who live five blocks away graduated high school and went into her family's business. She never went to college. But she did go to real estate school for a few months and got her real estate license. Then she started selling homes to rich people. But she had an inheritance from her family, who had a business, who were capitalists.


She sold houses to millionaires and billionaires. The other woman (of the two classmates) sold writing for one sixty-three hundreds of a penny per click on any of her 2,000 or so articles. Maybe she should have skipped college and took the exam for that real estate license. Or perhaps she should have gone to medical or law school when tuition was cheap in the 1950s.


Did one senior lady have the wrong major--English? Did she think that teaching jobs would be open after the 1950s? Not when there were more college graduates in English seeking community college teaching jobs than there were jobs open.


What about health care and senior health? One lady does not have enough income for health insurance. She relies on her elderly, blue-collar spouse's insurance.


Office workers could have sold real estate if they could drive

In the 1950s, a fortune could have been made selling Florida or California real estate to retirees. But it never occurred to her to sell real estate. Back then all she heard was "get a good liberal arts education and go into book publishing." You've got to be kidding.

One senior lady has male siblings who are lawyers and successful businessmen. The other senior lady has no siblings or any living relatives with money.


When it comes to senior health and integrity after retirement, why are so many health care oriented movements anti-capitalist when the poorest of the two women is a capitalist...a rich woman without money not a poor girl.


Was it based on the poor lady from the poor family marrying a poor guy without a college degree? The girl with the 5 million dollar house never married anyone. It has been more than 50 years since both these ladies' high school graduations.


Whatever turns out, it's possible to live below the poverty line and still be a capitalist as an independent contractor earning less than $6,000 a year from your capitalism. But you'll have to wait your turn if you need a safety net regarding healthcare.


And as far as help from the government, thank the government so far that as a person over age 70 I still get that tiny three-figure social security retirement check that the poor woman worked for since 1959....because that's what the poor woman has to live on in her years of deep decline.


Do you admire the capitalists who made it since 1959 when all of us were in high school? Somebody had success in youth and middle age that led to comfortable, healthy retirement years. It's all about planning and choice. But who gives you the choices--you or the outside world? Is success luck or decision-making?


At the last 50-year reunion so many of the public high school graduates made it also--successful doctors, lawyers, dentists, business persons who aren't living below the poverty line in old age. They did make it even though we all lived a short walking distance from one another from kindergarten through high school and knew one another's parents, for the most part.


The alternative in health care for many women (and men) is living below the poverty line. Nowadays many people can't afford to retire and they keep on working even when they don't have a job--but as independent contractors. The moral of who can afford healthcare often depends on choosing job skills that are marketable through the decades as times and technology change.


Sometimes poverty forces you to become a capitalist. In the old days, before 1900 it would have been immigration or loss of farm land that motivated people to plan ahead. Just look out for your hearing because wearing headphones all day typing what people are saying is not conducive to sharp hearing as you age, decades after retirement.


In the new days, you can talk to your computer and it types text, saving your hearing and your fingers from writer's cramp. But the dream job for some in the media is still to move from the word processing pool to the editor's desk and beyond to editorial freelancing or copywriting. Then comes the outsourced journalism trend of this decade.


Outsourced journalism labor


Newswriting may be outsourced overseas, but what about really quality copywriting? You may wish to check out the site, "Journatic worker takes 'This American Life' inside outsourced journalism." You need pretty good verbal and writing skills for copywriting. That's what makes it a great independent home-based online career for English majors or communications graduates and others who enjoy working at home on their computers working creatively with words.


It has been said that copywriters are the introverted mirror images of sales and marketing people who prefer to work alone behind the scenes, most often at home to focus and concentrate on creative details that help make more quality sales. Sometimes you're called a point-of-sale writer turning out quality content, not automated material. Can somebody soon come along and produce a software program that robot-like, turns out better copy than you can write?


The decision may be based on which creates more sales, your work or something automated or outsourced? You may wish to take a look at the article, "Why Good People Can't Find Jobs The Fiscal Times."


Where the future of outsourced journalism is heading


As citizen journalism slowly declines, what's picking up quickly is the state of outsourced journalism. Freelance/independent writers/journalists might enjoy checking out the July 3, 2012 article, "Journatic worker takes ‘This American Life’ inside outsourced journalism," by by Anna Tarkov. What put the damper on a variety of citizen journalism outlets included making the journalists feel more like second class citizens when the field divided into the haves and have-nots.


For example, in many citizen journalism blogs, writers weren't paid or were paid a token honorarium, a fraction of the pay for new articles similar in quality or word length to what those writers had received from print magazines a decade before.


Robot journalists never take a nap just when you need them


Oh, yes...There's the robot journalists. You may wish to check out some articles online such as these: "Why Robot Journalism Is Great for Journalists," NYMag,  "Should We Be Afraid Or Excited About Robot Journalism?"

Or take a look at who may be writing in newsrooms: "Who's Afraid of Robot Journalists? - Yahoo." And check out, "Quakebot: Los Angeles Times' robot journalist writes article on LA Earthquake." See: "Earthquake Was Written by a Robot." or view, "The Anatomy of a Robot Journalist" | Tow Center for Digital Journalism.