Joy Mayer never imagined her job ‘would become making the case that journalism is important.’

January 13, 2019
Category: Business & Work

This is one of 15 profiles in our series on journalism’s last decade. For the rest of the stories, visit “The Hardest Decade in Journalism?”

A decade ago, Joy Mayer taught print design at the Missouri School of Journalism and supervised design at the Columbia Missourian. Interactive design had so many possibilities back then, she said.

“I was just starting to dabble in web design and taking a class in … wait for it … Flash.”

She worried about adapting fast enough and teaching her students to do the same.

That seems quaint now,” she said. “I had *no* idea the scale of the changes that were actually coming.”

Now, Mayer works as the director of Trusting News. Here’s what she told us about the last 10 years:

In the last 10 years, what are the biggest changes you’ve had to make in your job?

My work now bears very little resemblance to my work a decade ago. I made the switch from design to audience engagement work in 2010, as a researcher, teacher and then consultant. That led to my work running Trusting News.

In the last 10 years, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen journalism go through?

The collapse of the business model and the diffusion of audience attention and loyalty have forced journalists to realize they don’t automatically have or deserve a community’s time and respect.

What are you doing now that you didn’t expect to be doing 10 years ago?

I would not have anticipated that my career focus would become making the case that journalism is important.

Looking back, what are you glad you didn’t give up in your career?

When I left my college newspaper in 1996, my outgoing editor’s message was something like, “Don’t forget about the readers. Remember, it’s their newspaper.” That focus on service and community was instilled in me early on, and I’m glad I never lost it.

How have newsroom layoffs impacted your work, your newsroom and the city where you live?

I’ve moved back to a city where I was a journalist from 1998-2003, and the newsroom bears little resemblance to what it did then. The staff is a small fraction of its former size, and the scope of coverage has decreased substantially.

10 years ago, where did you think you’d be now?

Running a design department in a big newsroom. The job hardly even exists these days.

Where do you think you’ll be 10 years from now?

With Trusting News, I hope to work myself out of a job. That would mean the problem would be solved, right? Honestly, I think the next decade will see the collapse of some news organizations that are being decimated by staff cuts and a lack of support. 10 years from now, I hope to be working with local journalists who are reinventing the landscape.

What’s the best thing that’s happened in journalism in the past decade?

Journalists have had to come to terms with the idea that they’re not essential to all people, and it’s led the most worthy of them to become more responsive to their communities.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened in journalism in the past decade?

The collapse of the business model means some of the worst journalism has remained free and is making the country dumber and more polarized, while the best journalism struggles to survive and get attention.

What are you the most afraid of now in your career?

I’m afraid of living in a society in which a growing percentage of people don’t consume responsible information.