Silicon Beach: Geeks and Writers Mix Like Oil and Water
A friend of mine looking for writing jobs recently expressed her frustration on Twitter about skill requirements: "This makes me *so* angry: Why do people hiring writers expect us to do web design? That's what a graphic/web designer is for."
The job posting she was referring to is on Journalismjobs.com and not only requires "mastery of the English language and AP style" but also audio, video and image editing experience on Final Cut as well as a "strong grasp" of metrics and search engine optimization (SEO), among other cross-over skills.
It isn't news that newspapers are on their deathbeds and that journalists need to be multimedia savvy; however, this job isn't for a newspaper, but for a financial industry company. My friend didn't go to journalism school, but she is a professional writer.
Her rant continued on Twitter: "You know why it angers me? Because it
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comes off as making writing alone seem 2 easy to be a job that deserves
a good salary."
Silicon Beach couldn't agree more. It isn't
enough that you have to write a good story these days, but you also
have to do stuff that geeks are good at and should get paid to do.
Such requirements are insulting to writers.
No doubt there are
folks who are multi-talented, but writers don't go to school to learn
Final Cut or SEO. And SEO masters, for example, excel at getting your
website to rank high on Google, but aren't wordsmiths trained in the
craft of copy.
Why should one person do two jobs? Unless you're
a freak genius, being a jack of all trades probably means you're also a
master of none. And every writer knows that focusing on everything but
the writing means forgoing the care and scrutiny required to make those
Writers should focus on making things sound good,
designers on making things look good and developers on making things
Of course, it's more economical for a cheap employer
to squeeze the creative lifeblood out of a single employee, and this is
probably why you see some amazing websites out there with crappy
This should be a supreme embarrassment for any
business. Bad copy translates into poor consumer confidence, just like
buttons that don't work, broken links and ugly graphics. The second a
potential customer has to think twice about a sentence, you've probably
lost a sale. All the beautiful code in the world isn't going to
matter to the end-users who visit your website and get confused by what
Coders write a different language. It's a functional
language you don't see, it's what makes websites and mobile phone
applications do things. Website copy is the emotional language, the
one that calls people to action.
Expecting a writer's writer
to get involved in too many technical aspects of an internet property
ultimately puts a company at a disadvantage. Unfortunately, it's not
the first time Silicon Beach has heard about a writing job that asks a
wordsmith to do everything but screw the janitor at a piss-poor fee.
Web development companies out there should take heed: hire writers to write. Heck, even hire an editor to help out the writer if it's a really big project. Get your writers and editors to work with
your geeks on the overall project. One should not replace the other
and both are intrinsically valuable on a creative team. Don't make
geeks write and don't make writers play geek.