Tag Archives: journalism

Does the news need paper?

newspaper-pages

Newspapers yesterday

Slate ran an article asking, “Who’s Better Informed, Newspaper Readers or Web Surfers?” The article essentially posed the same question we have been hearing for several years now. It’s been formatted and phrased a plethora of ways, but, in my opinion, it all comes down to this: What’s going to happen to America when newspapers no longer publish?

I think the fundamental unrest behind the issue of “to print of not to print” is an uncertainty of what our great nation would look like without the physical presence of a watchdog on the street corners, in grocery stores, on kitchen tables and in  our hands. And deeper than that, is the end of printing only a mere shadow of things to come? And even deeper, is it the end of major news corporations themselves? The end of news consumption? The end of holding the government accountable? The end of democracy?

Digital news

Newspapers today

Today,  you can’t walk down a busy street or peek at coworkers’ computer monitors, or ride on a subway very long, without noticing that people still consume news. Slate says readers “demonstrate that every day by going to newspaper Web sites,” which I believe is true. The question is, will newspaper publishers monetize the Web sufficiently to cover costs of “real” reporters? Or will newspapers someday become a giant twitter feed of citizen journalists and bloggers in cafe tweeting the news? I sincerely hope our country never sees this day, for when it does, it won’t be long until the demise of our great democracy.

I think newspapers can overcome the difficulties many of them are facing today, even though no one knows quite how that will happen. Paper is more than on its way out…it’s currently being shoved across the threshhold, and the next step is to slam the door. That doesn’t mean some papers won’t continue to publish print editions, but the national distribution of hard copy newspapers we have seen will drastically change to meet a selective audience willing to pay for the premium of holding the ink-filled pages in their hands.

I, for one, am not among them. I am perfectly content to surf the Web for news. I click on CNN daily, and usually add in BBC, NY Times, Fox News, sometimes a local paper, and The Kansan to my daily digest. And while I recognize that others will only read the sports section, or a single organization’s paper, and thus hear selectively reported news based on their interests, this has always been, and will continue to be, true– regardless of print or no print. Anyone who has worked on a newspaper knows it. Readers pick up your hard work to fill out the Sudoku or Crossword puzzle, not to read my investigative piece on where Senate is spending fees.

For the sake of America, I hope I am right when I say I don’t think the fallout will be as bad as some people claim. Some corporations will continue to print, at least for the foreseeable future. And if and when they stop, most of the world will be on to the next phenomenon of digital newspapers (haha), and the Kindle and the iPhone will be so revamped and further developed we will barely recognize them. The next technology will prevail and this whole print debacle will seem as outdated as the hubub surrounding Y2K and the fear that our entire world would collapse (can you believe that was only a mere decade ago?).

The professionals are missing it

Brian Solis’ article “Can the statusphere save journalism?” went awry in the second paragraph when Brian almost blindly accepted Walt’s hypothesis that there are only a few papers worth saving.
If this were true, why are there hundreds of thousands of papers to begin with? Or maybe a more puzzling question would be “how are they making it?

The perspective of both Solis and Walt is very idyllic and unrealistic in my opinion. They claim that skilled journalists can find a variety of routes through which to market themselves to the world.  This essentially ignores simple fact that people necessarily have to have successful careers, they have to have an income, benefits, and job security.

Sure, you can give the whole “market yourself independently” world a shot, and you can even join as many social networks as possible — FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, what have you. But none of these efforts are a guarantee of a career in which your work will be published, read and profitable. Plus, with the sheer volume of individuals hoping to strike it rich on these sites, it seems they are becoming less dependable for any realizable benefits.

How do you stand out in the wide, wide universe of Twitter profiles and Facebook pages? And if you do have the content and experience and background available there that would impress and move the world to read your stories, do they even go deep enough into your profile to discover any of it?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid Facebooker and Tweeter. I love them both for different and various reasons. I just don’t believe that Facebook or Twitter should be a journalist’s resort to find a job or make a name for him or herself. And I don’t believe it is EVER a good idea to consider that only a “few newspapers” are worth keeping and the whole lot of them should be done away with.

Abraham Lincoln said, “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”-Thomas Jefferson

Local newspapers are the basis of democracy! C’mon, Walt. Let’s not be so vain as to think that only the conglomerates matter and that millions of people aren’t reading local small-town papers.

Disappearing Act

Jobs aren’t the only thing disappearing. Internships are becoming more scarce as companies trim their budgets and eliminate unnecessary spending. I learned this firsthand last week.

About a month ago I learned that I had received a Dow Jones internship in Frederick, Maryland at a local daily newspaper. Just last week, though, I received a call from Dow Jones informing me that the newspaper had dropped out of the program because of insufficient funds to pay a summer intern. Perfect. I had already found and secured the perfect living situation and had planned my summer out in my head.

I was relocated to Trevose, Pennsylvania, to work for a mid-sized company that creates and develops marketing products. I took a pay cut of $50 a week. I’m happy about my new situation, but am nonetheless worried that this sort of event might become a more common occurrence.

Everyone is aware that jobs are in short supply, especially for the more highly paid and overqualified demographic of 40-50-year-olds in the industry. But are college students aware that their internships (which already pay almost nothing) may become either unpaid or, worse, obsolete?

I fear not. I can only hope that the economy will improve, advertisers will buy ads, writers will find jobs and paychecks will increase in amount. Oh, and college students will receive paid internships.