Monday, June 4, 2007

Should young journalists expect newspapers to exist in 10 years?

It's not just old media types and print news veterans who are confused about the state of journalism. As 25-year old reporter Steven Barrie-Anthony points out in the Huffington Post, it's also a confusing time for young journalists and journalism students.

A lot of folks who had no thought of becoming the next Woodward and Bernstein have found themselves reporting and opining on their own lives and the issues affecting their communities and the world. Blogs, podcasts, and online video have democratized media. At the same time, newspapers are cutting jobs left and right and revenue at many news organizations is either down, flat, or not rising quickly enough to please owners on Wall Street.

Barrie-Anthony asked several friends and colleagues to comment on the state of flux in the news industry. All are 20-something reporters based in L.A. Kathleen Nye Flynn of the Los Angeles Downtown News sums things up pretty well when she says she's wanted to be a newspaper reporter since she was 12. She writes for a small local paper, paying her dues so she can work up to the big leagues -- and now she's seeing he biggest paper in the region, the L.A. Times slashing jobs.

"At 12-years-old, I wanted to be a journalist so I could dig up the facts, spread the word and effect some sort of change. So, as long as there are facts to dig, people to tell, and words to use, I have a purpose. Whether or not I will have a paycheck, I'll have to see."

And that's the thing. I think there'll always be a need for people to tell those sorts of stories, to uncover the facts that remain hidden, and to present them in a clear and engaging way for a larger audience.

While blogs, podcasts, YouTube, and other resource allow anyone to participate, most folks are doing so as a labor of love. Call it journalism as a part time job. But whether print newspapers survive or are replaced by online media companies, there'll still be a need for full time journalists willing to devote their lives to telling the stories.

And I can't quite imagine a world where they aren't compensated if they're good at what they do. Whether that compensation will accurately reflect the amount of work they put into
the project is another question. But few reporters have ever gone into journalism for the salary.

[via lost remote]

2 comments:

Davis Freeberg said...

It's certainly a fair question given how much has changed over the last 10 years. There will always be demand for high quality reporting, but I have a feeling that we are only just beginning to see consolidation in the industry. In the future, papers will look more towards sites like the AP for content instead of paying a full time writer. There will be a lot more deals with blogs for free content or freelance stuff. There will be some who will be able to make enough money as full time professionals, but there will need to be cutbacks in the industry, before it can become healthy again.

Today, anyone can start an online newspaper. This sets the minimum wage pretty low, but it also sets the overall quality pretty low. There are a lot of sites that just cut and paste content with very little analysis. Can a good writer be heard over the din of all those pounding keyboards? I think that they can, but it certainly won't be easy making a living out of it. If I was a young writer thinking about my career, I would be focusing more on trying to develop my own brand or ad network, than to try and rely on traditional papers to keep me employed. This would probably mean less job security in the short run, but more long term security, if you can get a publication to take off.

Davis Freeberg said...

It's certainly a fair question given how much has changed over the last 10 years. There will always be demand for high quality reporting, but I have a feeling that we are only just beginning to see consolidation in the industry. In the future, papers will look more towards sites like the AP for content instead of paying a full time writer. There will be a lot more deals with blogs for free content or freelance stuff. There will be some who will be able to make enough money as full time professionals, but there will need to be cutbacks in the industry, before it can become healthy again.

Today, anyone can start an online newspaper. This sets the minimum wage pretty low, but it also sets the overall quality pretty low. There are a lot of sites that just cut and paste content with very little analysis. Can a good writer be heard over the din of all those pounding keyboards? I think that they can, but it certainly won't be easy making a living out of it. If I was a young writer thinking about my career, I would be focusing more on trying to develop my own brand or ad network, than to try and rely on traditional papers to keep me employed. This would probably mean less job security in the short run, but more long term security, if you can get a publication to take off.

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