A reflection on entertainment media as a career path

Commentary

Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief

Header image: Mohamed Hassan via PxHere

I’m scared.

I’m scared because this is my last commentary article with the Collegian as an undergrad. I’m scared because in two weeks I’ll be a journalist out in the field with a B.A. in Mass Media and Communication and I still have no idea what I want to write about.

My whole life I have made entertainment media my hobby. I played soccer in the day and I’d come home and play “Smash Bros.” with my teammates, I’d go to school and wait all day to get home and watch a few hours of Cartoon Network, I’d play music and use what I learned about music theory to appreciate the score of a new movie that I saw and above all, no matter what I did from my childhood to now, I always knew that no matter how stressful my day-to-day life got, or how invested I got in my courses and different interests, that when I got home at the end of the day I was firing up a gaming console or putting a Blu-Ray in the tray, and that was my time away from the world.

The conversation that our entertainment is an escape from modern problems and that we take to these fictional worlds so we don’t have to deal with ours is well trod ground. But, I find myself in a particular place where I have a unique discussion to be a part of.

Learning journalism in high school, and exposing myself to the field of communication, production, word mills, internships and online publication in college, I can confidently say that I’m ready to enter into the field of journalism and write. During my time with the Collegian, I started writing as an Arts and Entertainment writer, doing movie and game reviews during my first year, incorporating my hobby with my writing skills. 

After that, I took over as editor of the Arts and Entertainment section for two years, writing thousands of words and dozens of pieces on entertainment media, the industries that produce them and the ways that entertainment is a part of our media and cultural landscapes. 

Then, when I took over as editor-in-chief, I continued to be immersed in the journalism landscape and learn how to manage, edit and work in a newsroom. Through my schooling, I learned how to more effectively cover topics like current events, politics, social justice, personal features, local news and more, and I branched far out from just writing movie reviews. 

I will be doing one year of graduate school here at La Salle University, so I have the time, but I have a decision to make: Do I enter the traditional news media market and enjoy more job security, a more defined pipeline and the ability to write about and describe important events that will help others become educated and informed, or do I go down the path of entertainment journalism, driving forward my passion for movies and games through reviews, industry breakdowns, interviews with internal members of the community and write for a crowd that also wants to be informed and keep up, but for their hobbies and love of escapism?

I’ve always considered the field of entertainment to be a hobby, but I am so deeply connected to it and I know its inner workings. I could make it a career. But, first of all, I feel this overwhelming stigma that entertainment is considered a less-than field by an ignorant majority, that by being in it, you are wasting your life, and you aren’t contributing to society. Second, if I was to ignore this feeling and accept that these people are wrong, I’m also concerned that by making entertainment a career, I would have to lose it as a hobby. At what point does watching a movie for work stop being fun and start being stressful? If I have to review a long video game before an embargo period, would I really enjoy it? These questions are a secondary barrier to my decision.

I still have this decision to make, but I also feel like 1. This stigma is not true and that there is a way for me to move past it and 2. There is a way for me to appreciate entertainment in my career without losing it as a hobby. To help me with this decision, I went and talked to some of my friends and mentors here at La Salle who have a lot sharper opinion at this time. After hearing from them, I hope I will be able to better inform my decision, and I hope anyone reading these interviews will take away what they need to hear if they are in a similar situation to myself.

Dr. Mark Lashley, communication professor, television critic and media researcher

I have taken three entertainment related courses with Dr. Mark Lashley during my time at La Salle: Media Criticism, Prestige TV and TV Comedy, the latter two of which I took as honors electives, showing how much thought, research, writing and analysis went into the courses. When I started having these thoughts about my own career, I couldn’t think of anyone better to come to at La Salle than Lashley.

“I got the sense pretty early that media, even purely entertainment media, have a lot to teach us about how society works, what we value and how we see ourselves,” said Lashley. This is how I have always identified with media, often being drawn to both the silly escapes from reality as well as the deep reflections of how we act as human beings.

“I often joke when I teach TV and film classes that I’m going to try to ruin the things we enjoy by over-analyzing the process and the messages in our favorite shows and movies, but the truth is that being a critical reader of media can really add to the enjoyment of it in a lot of ways. Knowing what a creator is trying to say, what methods they’re using to say it, and how we as the audience negotiate a meaning from that, helps us reckon with the power of messages and how stories are told,” he continued.

When I asked Lashley about my concerns regarding entertainment becoming work rather than a hobby in his own life, he said, “it is somewhat of a ‘job’ to keep up with the culture, but there are definitely way worse ways to spend one’s time.”

“I get that making entertainment isn’t typically a lifesaving, or even profit-generating, way of life. But the arts are important,” said Lashley, “we tend to argue a lot about different forms of entertainment, and negotiate their meanings, which I think is a testament to how much value we give these texts and how much meaning we find in them.” 

On the subject of entertainment criticism and journalism, where I may find myself, Lashely had this to say, “I think creating is valuable, but I think criticism is valuable, too. The problem here is that its value is diminishing in the journalism world, where outlets have reduced the amount of criticism they publish, and generally pay writers and freelances less than even a decade ago. That being said, having smart, informed people engaging in discourse can help audiences understand the themes and messages embedded in media, and can champion great, worthwhile art that might not otherwise reach the mainstream.”

“The world is always going to need entertainment,” concluded Lashley, and I couldn’t agree more. Being able to think, escape, wonder and get excited is such a necessary part of all of our lives and I cannot see a world where these things just up and left.

Audrey Walker, senior criminal justice student, future Pepperdine law student

A singer and member of the Masque of La Salle, Walker said that she has been intrigued by the music industry for years, but chose to study the legal system in college both for career fulfillment and for financial prospects. She recently committed to Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, and says that she will be pursuing entertainment law, working with musicians and other artists in the courtroom.

“I wasn’t originally planning on going into entertainment law, but when I realized I could marry my two interests in one career, I realized that it would be the most fulfilling area of practice for me,” said Walker.

“People have been participating in and going to watch performing arts since ancient times. I’ve always thought that there’s something intrinsically human about performances, and they contribute to a very universal, human society;” said Walker, “when the pandemic hit, concerts and other live shows were the first things to go, and I remember how distressed everyone seemed over that.”

I asked Walker how she felt those in entertainment adjacent fields can contribute to society. She said, “Because entertainment is an integral part of society as well as a reflection of society, people who work in entertainment in any way absolutely contribute to the progression of society. The entertainment industry doesn’t just respond to societal desires, it also creates and influences them.”

Jonathan Colella, senior communication major, La Salle TV host

Jon Colella is a friend of mine that I met and learned a lot from through the com department, us bonding over the fact that we are some of the few entertainment minded students in a department filled with sports journalists. He is an excellent creative writer, writing multiple scripts and plays for student organizations along with co-hosting La Salle TV’s entertainment media and industry show, “Backstage Pass.”

I asked Colella where he is in his career search, and he said, “Right now my philosophy is ‘Do whatever you can, when you can.’ Entertainment is hard, and I’m certainly not going to be picky going into it. I’ve played with the idea of making YouTube video reviews of video games, not necessarily for the purpose of becoming YouTube famous but really as a way to keep myself sharp and to attune my own craft for myself. I love reviewing entertainment media as I feel like I have a lot to say about most things because I’ve consumed so much, so I like trying to make fair reviews of products while attempting to be funny.”

On the subject of the stigma against media jobs, Colella had this to say “Not all art is entertainment media, but all entertainment media is art. In every single thing created for us there is something to take from it, intentional or not. There is always a message, always a story, always information. Even if there isn’t a message, that’s still a message. It’s just how these things work. I don’t consume media with the intention of distraction myself from a sh*tty life. I consume media with the intention of gaining something, anything, from it.”

“Entertainers are the heavy hitters of cultural identity and I feel like anybody who says entertainers are worthless are probably really boring… Everyone is important in a lot of weird ways you wouldn’t expect. So while entertainment doesn’t seem essential to humanity, it surely is,” he continued.

Colella said that during his time with “Backstage Pass,” he has heard many horror stories from the entertainment industry, but because he is so passionate about it, this does not discourage him. “Your career and passion is a very important decision to make, so it wouldn’t be fair to yourself to have someone else make that decision for you. If you want to pursue entertainment, even after you hear every terrible thing, and still decide you want to, then you should.”

Nolen Kelly, senior communication major, Collegian arts and entertainment editor

I can guarantee that if it wasn’t for our long, and often arduous, discussions and arguments over entertainment media, that Nolen Kelly and I never would have bonded the way we did, now working together on the newspaper and living together. Kelly has a deep knowledge of the film and television industry and all aspects that make up the properties that he watches. From mise-en-scene to lighting to shoot site, he knows it all, and that is why I chose him to become one of the editors for arts and entertainment when the time came.

“I’ve always lived my life trying to be good at the things that make me happy and chasing them and for me right now: that’s writing. I’ve always known I’ve wanted to write either creatively or journalistically and in my senior year here I managed to do both at the same time, so I could see myself doing either or both, hopefully, professionally,” said Kelly.

I asked Kelly what he thought about the modern media landscape and if he thought entertainment was more of a distraction or an important facet of life. “Entertainment can both push and halt the progression of society, in my opinion. You get your boundary pushers who do so well they move beyond entertainment and move into important or thoughtful commentary. There are also those who are only there for distraction purposes. I think both kind of need to exist together for popular culture and society to realize what they need to move on from or gravitate more towards.”

Reflecting on his time as a writer and editor for arts and entertainment in the Collegian, Kelly said, “If anything, being a part of the Collegian has cemented that all I ever want to do in life is to be in the entertainment industry. I could write original plays, movie reviews, community movie discussions, original scripts and/or fun rant pieces forever. The feeling of creating something with words and knowing someone out there is watching and enjoying what I made is enough motivation for me to make more.”

Reflection

What I have determined is that anyone that has any interest in pursuing entertainment in any way as a career, whether that be an actor, writer, production crew member, journalist, lawyer, advertiser or anything in between, should, because it is a really important industry that helps people around the world both escape as well as explore. Yes, escapism is important, and I would never say that someone is wasting their time by consuming media, but it is also a thought tool that can help people feel emotions, learn and become more in touch with the human experience over all. It is a beautiful thing that can be provided to us in a multitude of ways, and it truly is an important part of what makes us who we are.

I’m still uncertain about my future as an entertainment journalist, as I truly do love writing about news and politics and featuring important perspectives through written word that evokes understanding and emotion. And, as Lashley said, media criticism certainly does not seem like a well paid field. But, my superficial concerns regarding it now are alleviated, and I hope that going through this short reflection with me helped you feel more confident about your career choices, your media habits or your pairing of hobby and career in any field.

Let me know if you are or have been in a similar situation, and if you have any advice for a budding maybe-entertainment journalist, by emailing me at JDEiseman1@gmail.com.

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