27 February 2008

All The News That's Fit To Ignore

After looking at it many times in many ways, I’ve concluded that the print journalism degree I earned in college might be as disposable as the newspapers it was meant to serve.
These are tough times in my industry. I think the Internet is to blame; why look at (or buy) a newspaper when you can look on cnn.com or foxnews.com and get anything you would have gotten out of the A Section of any decent newspaper? Why pay money for a classified ad when you can just go to Craig’s List or sell it on eBay? Why go about having anything to do with a medium people have to pay to access when the Internet gives you ways to do it for free?
I admit, my career has left me in the dumps lately. I love my job - it’s unlike anything else on the planet. I love going to new places and seeing new things. Even when I make mistakes, I learn something. However, it’s not my job that’s the trouble; it’s the industry in which it’s set. The newspaper has been in decline since the 1940s, but increasing population and subscriptions offset these figures to illustrate the numbers as stable, said an article on this very subject at journalism.org. A little more than half of adults read a newspaper on a daily basis. I’ll imagine the number is even lower for the people in my generation, who seems to want to watch rather than read. If they are the future audience for a newspaper, I am in trouble.
There are mixed reactions when I spread my gospel message of doom and gloom for a rather beloved institution. Some insist that there will always be a newspaper, because it’s the best source of news around. They are correct - but their wallets seem to speak differently. Advertising is a necessary evil in my line of work; it’s an unusual relationship between idealism and commerce. When it works together, as it has done with the New York Times and other venerable establishment papers, it can work wonders. However people may hunger for a newspaper, the facts seem to speak for themselves as to a general declines - fewer people reading, fewer people subsrcibing and fewer people caring.
I would be one of those fellows on the outside of the circle shaking my head at the decline of an institution, but I do not have the luxury. I’m one of the struggling breaths trying to escape the lungs of the corpse I'm employed in. We knew faintly of this issue in college, but, as college students often do, we blinded ourselves to it through work and the idealistic preaching of the people who were teaching us. Once I graduated in 2005, everything changed. The workings of the industry became perfectly clear. Even since then things have changed. The newspaper I interned with before my current job is a shell of what it was. It’s in half of the office space with half of the staff; it too seems to be dying. We all might as well have majored in zeppelin maintenance or bowler hat repair for all of the good the skill sets we’ve learned here will do us.
Of course, I’m a pessimist. It’s easy to be. As a man of faith, I offer my anxiety to God on a daily basis, but the human part of me refuses to let things go. Before I wrote this column, I had a minor anxiety attack over the state of affairs I’m currently in. To what path does the future lead when the ink runs dry?
Part of me is afraid I’ll end up going back to school to learn more skills to become more employable once this enjoyable dalliance in the field of a noble profession has ground to a halt. I really don’t like that thought; nothing against school, but when does real life start? I realize that’s a complete misnomer; “real life” is right now, as I breathe and write this entry. But the larger part of me cannot help but feel disappointed that I have to contemplate fleeing back to the same bosom I so recently matriculated from. When can I settle down and actually do something stable? I’ve had enough of these changes.
Right now, I don’t feel like an award-winning journalist; I feel like a humbled child who tried jumping for the cookie only to be told it simply didn’t exist anymore.

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