Erica Sandberg can’t just help you balance your books – she’s an experienced journalist and media personality with a lot of insight into how the Internet has changed how we consume content. She shared some of that insight when we spoke with her.
How has working in news changed for you, as technology has shifted?
When I started out in news, it was the mid ’90s, and I was working for a consumer credit counseling agency. My job was to get the word out about wise money management. Somehow I finagled a regular gig at a San Francisco TV station, where I answered viewers questions on camera. I fell in love with the media world. It was live TV and very exciting.
Now, as a freelancer, I still do traditional news quite a lot, reporting and providing commentary, but I do more independently produced video. That was not really an option before. If you wanted to get your name and information out there, you were at the mercy of others who made the final decision. So I guess that’s the best thing about technology, for me. It helped me be independent.
What opportunities does the Internet offer reporters?
When you’re motivated, you can do practically anything. If you want to have your own show, you can set up a camera and do it, then blast it to the stratosphere. Want your own column or blog? Sure, why not?
Of course the problem with this model is that there’s so much junk floating out there, mucking it all up. Community “reporters” who can’t write well, communicate effectively, or who have a ridiculously slanted agenda all share the same space as those who are fantastic. I have huge regard for trained and talented professionals. It upsets me to see everyone lumped together, and then the reader or viewer has to sort it out, which is not always so easy.
So while the internet is great for exploiting opportunities, making sure the person delivering the information is qualified is vital.
If you could go back and give your younger self some advice about the job, what would it be?
Don’t be so passive. When I wrote my book, the editor who was assigned to me wanted to make a lot of changes, many of which made me uncomfortable. It just wasn’t my voice or even sometimes my opinion. But I felt so grateful that the book was getting published. He was the “expert,” so most of the time I followed along with his suggestions, silently grumbling. Though I was happy enough with the result, I still wish I had stood my ground more often.
What misconceptions about your job are still floating out there?
Media personality and personal finance expert is the best job description for what I am. There’s no box for it on CareerBuilder or even Media Bistro, though.
Because it’s so hard to ascribe an accurate, inclusive title, I’m called a lot of funny and inaccurate things:
- Financial advisor. That would imply that I give investment advice, which I don’t do.
- Writer. So generic! Kind of implies that I pen fiction, too.
- Blogger. I’ve done them, but not regularly and rarely for myself.
- Journalist. Did not go to J-School, so I hesitate with that title even though a good portion of what I do is formal reporting.
- Editor. True, I’m editor at large for CreditCardGuide, but that is only a fraction of my duties.
- Show host. My most recent venture is Making it With Erica on MySourceTV, a video show about how to do enjoyable, exciting things no matter how much money you have or owe. But again, it’s part-time.
- Spokesperson. I often represent companies for media tours. But I never accept assignments from businesses that I don’t agree with. A common misconception about spokespeople is that we will do anything for the money. However, it just doesn’t work that way. I have to be discerning and objective, because if I wasn’t, I’d have no worth! The higher my standards are, the better.
Where do you see reporting heading in the future?
I think there will be more like me, who create their own positions. As the job market for traditional journalists gets tighter and more precarious, it just makes sense. Why be beholden to someone else if you don’t have to?
There is, of course, an inherent flaw with the rogue, make-it-your-own-way system. Quality can suffer. The very best should come out ahead, but I’m fearful. So far it’s not just a few reporters who don’t do their homework or who want to get their personal point across, but there are too many websites that perpetuate misinformation.
So this may not be so much of a prediction, but a hope: I would love to see an increase in news outlets that are committed to delivering the purest facts, absent of a specific political, social, or religious agenda. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
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