News as we know it

Tombstone for a newspaper
Photo picked up from Global Nerdy

When I was thinking of this post last week, I was mostly thinking of the AP vs. bloggers dustup. In my head, it occurred to me that with the power of search engines like Google, people really don’t need AP to distribute stories — people find their news for themselves and more and more, no longer need so-called experts to help them form opinions about the news. Which is probably why Wired came up with the crazy idea of Google buying the AP. But, they really don’t need to. With Google’s search engine and news bots, and Yahoo’s syndication deals with local TV stations and newspapers (full disclosure: my station has a syndication deal with Yahoo), who needs AP anymore? Ouch.

Which is why the dustup was so crazy in the first place — why attack those who continue to give value to your product when the value of your product — which is basically distribution — is falling? Like Jeff Jarvis blogged last week, its lashing out at bloggers feels like a sign of its impending demise. Kind of like how (sob) newspapers are dealing with this newfangled online world by slashing their staffs¬† of real-life employees.

I no longer work in newspapers, but I still love news, so it hurts to watch all this happen. I suppose, if you really sat down and looked at the economics of newspapers, most newspapers were probably a little top heavy. One of my favorite books is “The Corpse Had A Familiar Face,” by Edna Buchanan, who came up to become a Pulitzer-prize winning crime reporter by being obsessively thorough, having no life and churning out stories like it was no one’s business. That was a time when there was not too much thought about the work-life balance, benefits or any of the other “cushy” things we enjoy today. I’m sure no one wants to go back to the days of working without overtime (sh, don’t tell the starting reporters), but at the same time, I really think being a journalist and a reporter was a lot more fun back then.

But to cut so much in such a short time? When journalists and news in general already have a bad rep? One of my AAJA friends sent a bunch of us this mashup by graphic designer Erica Smith. The page is labeled Paper Cuts, an appropriately piercing double entendre. Its seriously depressing to behold.

At any rate, I really hope that journalists today are making sure they are staying diverse. I don’t know about anyone else, but I know that both my husband and I worked a variety of jobs before coming to journalism full-time. It was this type of experience I thought of as I read “Intern or Die” in The New Republic:

When we set up a system that rewards young people so disproportionately for behaving like strivers from the age of 14 on (or whenever they grasp the highly fraught imperative to get into college), it’s mean-spirited to then find fault with them for doing so. It’s probably safe to assume that many of this summer’s interns would rather not be photocopying expense reports. But the ones who opt out–the ones who work minimum wage jobs and learn firsthand something about how the other half lives, something more than what they learn just from reading How the Other Half Lives in American History class–well, check back in a few years. They probably won’t be working at a liberal magazine that covers poverty policy. That job went to someone who’d done an internship.

Being a writer and a reporter is of course very rewarding work. And I realize that journalism sort of demands that journalists only be journalists (except when you’re a broadcast journalist). But not knowing how to translate those journalism skills into other industries and lines of work will likely end with that journalist staring blankly at a pink slip, thinking, what now?

But, hopefully not. I really, really hope not.