Newspapers fighting a losing battle

By on April 22, 2009

The Boston Globe is on a death watch. The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times have declared bankruptcy. The Chicago Sun-Times and The Star-Ledger are close to folding. There have been thousands of layoffs of reporters but there are still fewer resources. 16,000 more journalism jobs have been lost this year than in 2008. It seems that print is not expected to survive many more years.

Print is dead or changing, and the Web is the future – these were the opinions of three panelists concerning print journalism at “Journalism’s Next Chapter,” an information session sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists in the Mancheski Executive Seminar Room of the Lender School of Business on April 15.

The guest panelists included Melissa Bailey, managing editor of the New Haven Independent, an online newspaper, Joel Rawson, former executive editor of the Providence Journal, and K. Lee Davis, a writer for ESPN.com.

“Nobody had an inkling of how fast the crash would come on revenue,” Rawson said. “What’s scary when making a lot of money is, you never imagine it going south.”

The panelists debated whether the Web played a role in print’s demise, and whether print journalism was already doomed to death.

“Classifieds being available on the Web destroys newspaper, but not news,” Bailey said. “The Web is a model where news is thriving.”

“The N.Y. Times will survive and others will not,” Rawson said. “There is no guarantee of success but newspapers appeal to people who want to know – for people who are affluent, educated, engaged, newspapers are always going to be available.”

“The Internet means fewer journalists, everything is cheaper to do,” Davis said. “I am a daily newspaper reader and will read until they aren’t available, but they are inevitably doomed. If journalism is not worth paying for, God help us all.”

The panelists agreed that no one has all the answers. The future of print journalism is as unclear as ever. But for those journalism majors out there who are worried about getting a job after graduation, Adjunct Associate Professor of Journalism Kenn Venit has some suggestions.

“Start your own company, make videos, do freelance writing and news releases, take multiple jobs,” Venit said. “It may not be journalism but the skills you acquire at college will get you jobs to create income.

“I am optimistic for the future. The versatility they acquire at school is why you’ll have jobs in the future.”

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