I recently heard about more layoffs at a daily newspaper where I used to work.
It made me sad.
In 2011, I was laid off. The following 2.5 years were tough (and with it being in the midst of the hardest times, I had extended unemployment benefits, thankfully) and I had a lot of time to reflect upon my career choice and where I was going to go from there.
I’m not sure what all the layoffs were, to be honest. I’m sure there was a mixture. But I’m pretty sure a couple of them were newsroom related. That means a small staff gets smaller. And an already thin newspaper gets thinner.
Again, a sad time.
When I was in high school, I freelanced for a weekly newspaper. It was my start in the business. A great place to start at that. I learned newspapers from the inside, including the old wax machines, cutting and pasting and the way it used to be done.
Technology came in and changed it all.
By the time I was working full time at a daily, everything was different. But it was more exciting now. I got to see and appreciate the press. I had the opportunity to do many things at a newspaper.
I was also one of those fools who said the newspaper industry would remain strong. Oh how my tunes changed, eh?
I still love newspapers. I truly do. Well, at least the ones that still care and still deliver a quality product. Unfortunately, that has gone down dramatically in the past several years. People don’t care as much as they used to. Reporters and editors are often bitter, underpaid, and understaffed – yet expected to do more. The higher ups (top-line editors, bean counters, publishers etc.) put so much pressure on those well below them that the product suffers.
And taking a vacation – which you’ve earned – is tough because it hurts co-workers, not those in the higher-pay areas. Raises are few and far between. Work hours are ridiculous.
That’s journalism today, unfortunately.
I miss the days of old. I miss when I’d go cover a state wrestling meet and see the same reporters each year, or other state events (high school coverage) where you see these reporters and teams and such. Not that it doesn’t happen now, but some papers won’t even send reporters to these things because it could cost them a night or two in a hotel room. Big expenses!
I was talking to a few people I know still in the business, and they are all at different places. But the resounding voice was how it is now. They are often chained to the desk, doing things via the phone, not being out. Mileage is immensely low-paid (anywhere from 20-33 cents per mile; the federal rate is 57.5 cents per mile), and it’s not like you get endless expense reports.
Don’t get me wrong, I realize there can’t be free spending, but you need to make sure you get the job done.
I still think certain things about newspapers:
- Weekly papers will last because they are a community voice, though even the better community weeklies are having a larger presence online.
- Daily papers will continue to shrink.
- The push to the online world will continue, thus making it about speed, more than anything else.
Where will daily papers be in 10 years? Maybe gone? Maybe all online? If that’s the case, some papers better work on their websites. Too many are hard to navigate and not easy to find things.
I read a hard copy of a newspaper every day. Though, I can usually get through it in the time it takes me to eat a bowl of Cheerios. I have a feeling in the future, I’ll be doing the same via an iPad.
That will be a sad day, just like it is each time I hear about massive layoffs at newspapers throughout the country.
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