Storytellers aren't "needed" per se (in the sense that we need food, clothing, shelter, etc.), but there'll always be a need for stories and storytelling. That's because we live in a world where nearly 6 billion people have their basic needs met. That's a lot of people who've moved beyond subsistence living and have the time, energy, and interest to pursue things in life other than their next meal.
History and observation confirm that once Maslow's foundational motivators of human behavior are fulfilled, humans have a natural tendency to look for things with which to feed their souls. Entertainment is part of that nourishment. We want to entertain and be entertained. Think about that. Six billion people! All looking for something that will feed their souls. For all intents and purposes, this is an inexhaustible market.
And this is where writers come into play. Or as Kris Rusch states, the better term is storytellers. People want to escape for a time and enjoy a good story. As writers of stories, that's all we're really providing. A bit of a break, maybe some inspiration or encouragement. It's a needed service. Humans benefit by it. And what's exciting is that there will always be a market for what we produce.
But we shouldn't let it go to our heads.
Joe Konrath, in his latest post ripping Russo's letter to the members of the Authors Guild, puts it clearly: "Writers are entertainers. We're not feeding villages. We're not curing cancer. No one owes us a living because we spend hours writing stories. When it comes down to it, we're really not that important." (btw, read the whole discussion for an enlightening and entertaining shellacking of those who advocate going back to the 'old way of doing things' in publishing.)
Both Rusch's and Konrath's comments remind me to drive the humble middle road when it comes to becoming a career writer/storyteller. On the one hand, the opportunity is vast - probably the greatest time in history for those who want to earn a living by telling great stories. I, for one, want to take advantage of this open window. On the other hand, the fact that we can spend time writing and telling stories isn't something we brought about. It's part of being in the right time and place and era - including the fantastic era brought about by dramatic changes in the publishing industry.
So while no one owes me a living telling stories, the chance exists now like never before.
With as little hubris as possible, I'm going to go for it.