It is difficult to describe how it feels, as a journalist, to read daily about the state of crisis in the news industry. Today the Hearst Corporation announced that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer will shutter its print edition tomorrow, which currently has a weekday circulation of 117,600. That means the P-I, which is 146-years-old, has become the largest American print newspaper to fold to date.
Three years ago, I was a college senior applying for newspaper internships and jobs in much the same way a journalist would have 10 or 20 or 30 years ago; I photocopied clips of my work from the school paper and packed them in manila envelopes with cover letters emphasizing my shoe-leather reporting chops. Of the 15 or so large papers I applied to, only one -- Newsday on Long Island -- offered me a spot, which I turned down in favor of moving to D.C. to pursue online media. That decision seemed risky at the time. Now I look back and breathe an immense sigh of relief. I have web skills. Thank god.
The demand for information and analysis hasn't waned. It has grown. What we're losing with the death of print is a surefire way to make news and analysis profitable. (Which, incidentally, is a moot point at TAP, since we are a nonprofit supported by donations and subscriptions.) When I'm feeling optimistic, I hope that the rash of newspaper closings we're experiencing is the bottom of a bell curve, and that when print dies out totally, advertising dollars will migrate to the Internet and the profession will be saved. But even if that's true, we are entering a long, dry spell in which reporting resources will shrink at most publications once dependent on print revenues. Now matter how much of an Internet triumphalist you are, this is cause for serious concern -- especially at the local level, where small newspapers serve as watchdogs over police, school boards, town councils, and the like. Ezra has more on this.
I have every confidence that in a democracy and market as vibrant as ours, web publications will spring up to fill the void. But that will take time. And we will also lose newspapers' role as the trainers of young journalists. I know I benefited greatly from the daily paper internship racket. I worked at The Journal News in New York's northern suburbs, and was taught there how to copy-edit, write a lead, and churn out five stories a week. All skills crucial to blogging.
In short, I feel very sorry for the prospective young journalists graduating from college this spring. The job market has contracted, and the new opportunities haven't yet arrived on the scene. It's a bleak time.
You need to be logged in to comment.
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)