Everyday it seems, another expert is telling us that the print newspaper industry is going the way of the dinosaur. The telling signs and evidence of a death spiral are there: newspaper circulation is down, the younger generation is not reading them, and most importantly, regular and classified advertising is migrating to other (free) places, like craigslist and vehix. We've seen the evidence locally, with the Rocky Mountain News being put up for sale, and the Denver Post letting go of their senior editors.
Yes, there are some solutions being proposed. As the news makes its imminent transition from paper to dots on a screen, Walter Isaacson, in the Time magazine a few weeks ago, suggests that we need a micro-payment system (a few pennies per article) to keep an online journalism ecosystem alive, with editors, columnists, photographers, layout artists, and reporters. He admits, though, that the last few rounds of micro-payment schemes have failed.
I've read it's the bigger newspapers that are in the real trouble. Supposedly small to medium size newspapers like our Times-Call are in better shape, perhaps because they are reporting on hometown stories that won't be covered anywhere else. But, the Times-Call did layoff their weekly humor reporter, Jade Cody, last week. (Regardless of whether you thought he was funny or not, don't we need our humor columnists even more during down times?)
Newspapers also have a wonderful side-effect, which I think is being lost in all of the obituary talk about newspapers. In addition to giving us the news of the day,
Newspapers serve as a stable, one-stop shop archival record of our historyHere in Longmont, one can go back to the newspapers on microfiche from the 1880's, and read the happenings for any given week, including local news, politics, weather, recreation, and human interest stories. This includes being able to see the advertisements and classifieds, which provide a valuable view to how people were living, and what they were buying. For a such a brittle media as paper, those historic words and pictures have survived a long time.
Do you trust that the online equivalent of today's newspapers will give us the same historical content and access, 120 years from now? Will the content be scattered across many sites, in different formats and retrieval methods? Will it be possible to round up the complete Longmont news landscape for a given day? What about the archival of the on line advertisements, which I mentioned are an important part of our history? Do we just assume that Google will be taking care of this for us?
Finally, what would you advise a high schooler or college student who is considering pursuing a future in journalism?