Per Thursday’s post at Tenured Radical about the silly panic at the New York Times that “traditional” history is imperiled because, well, cherchez la femme, here’s another take by Mary L. Dudziak at Legal History Blog (and h/t to Mary for the most excellent graphic, at left!). She asks, “[w]hy a backward-looking article about the way the pie should be divided, when the more pressing news story is the impact of the economic crisis on the next generation of historians, regardless of field?”
“Anonymous” asks a similar question back in the thread at Tenured Radical, to wit: “What’s up with the NYT and its shoddy coverage of everything that related to academia? What’s the source of its hostility/ ignorance?” (Remember this little fracas, friends?) Historiann would like to propose an answer to that simple question, which I think can be applied to most people working in print journalism these days: they’re jealous. Yes, it may come as a surprise to you that newspaper and magazine reporters, editors, and columnists are envious of the tiny paychecks and the library cards that are our reward for prevailing in the cutthroat academic job markets of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, but–when you look at the collapse (like a “flan in the cupboard,” as Eddie Izzard might say) that print journalism might be facing–well, having a tenured gig (even if not a particularly “cushy” one) looks pretty darn good from the outside. And, I’d wager that the people who write for top-notch publications like the New York Times went to places like Yale or Amherst, where the life of a faculty member looked really good, indeed, instead of where the vast majority of us teach at Northern Mid-State U., with a 3-3 or 4-4 teaching load.
Last month when I was out at the Huntington Library, I ran into an old friend from grad school who was a reporter for 10 years before getting his Ph.D. He commented that “20 years ago, it seemed like an incredible gamble to give up my job and try to become a professional historian, but now it looks like I actually made the most prudent choice possible.” He’s tenured now, and feels incredibly fortunate to have that kind of job security–certainly compared to his friends back at the newspaper he worked for, who are in full panic mode.
I’m off to a “cushy” conference for the rest of the weekend with other tenured, untenured, and/or un- or under-employed historians, darlings–so, discuss! I think reporters are just green with envy. And maybe they should be–this cowgirl’s living the dream, a dream achieved after 6 years of grad school, 3 semesters of term teaching (overlapping some with grad school), and 4 years in a bullying department, for a mere 11 years total of preparation! How about you?