9.24.2008

A Dying Breed

It's no secret that the print newspaper is dying a slow and painful death. It has been discussed or mentioned in just about every journalism class I've taken at UNC-Chapel Hill. With the internet comes easier, cheaper and more convenient publishing methods. Hell, this blog is free. With the increased ease in publication and proliferation of news aggregators and blogs on the internet, print newspapers are becoming industry dinosaurs.

Case-in-point: the Raleigh News & Observer has cut 9% of it's newsroom staff over the last couple of days, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Pat Stith, who accepted a buyout offer and retired. I don't blame him.

Cartoonist Grey Blackwell will also be leaving the N&O staff, according to WUNC's Laura Leslie, while nationally-syndicated political cartoonist Duane Powell and public editor Ted Vaden are being knocked back to part-time.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The paper has already reduced the number of pages in each issue and will start combining sections and cut the Sunday "Q" section entirely.

So what does that mean for our local paper? Well, don't expect it to be that local. The N&O and the Charlotte Observer are already sharing stories like crazy and half of the stories in the paper come from wire sources. Yeah, it's cheaper, but is it better? No.

Now I can't sit here and blame the paper or it's parent company. It makes sense that they need to cut costs. As I said earlier, the newspaper as we know it is dying. But more needs to be done. They can't just sit there and keep cutting, hoping something would eventually change. They need to adapt.

Clay Shirky in his book Here Comes Everybody sums up newspapers' mistakes pretty well:

"Many people in the newspaper business, the same people who worried about the effects of competition like USA Today, missed the significance of the internet....There was a kind of narcissistic bias in the profession; the only threats they tended to take seriously were from other professional media outlets.... This bias had them defending against the wrong thing when the amateurs began producing material on their own."

Eventually journalism will fully embrace the internet and thrive, I have no doubt. And I even believe that print newspapers will exist in some form (most likely small community papers) for years to come. But right now the industry looks bad, and there will be some serious growing pains.

What a time to graduate with a journalism degree...

1 comment:

Chris Monaghan said...

I've heard writing jobs are drying up in a bad way. Even the New York Times is tanking.