July 31, 2013 The de-newspaperization of America
reporters who work for the Plain Dealer of Cleveland -- an iconic name in American journalism, a newspaper that's published as a daily since 1845 and won a lot of awards over the years -- were ordered to stay home and sit by their telephones this morning.
They knew, thanks to the rumor mill, that as many as 50 of them would be laid off before lunchtime. How sad and pathetic: Reporters who routinely work the streets of poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods getting fired by cowering managers who didn't have the cojones to tell face-to-face.
That firing practice is hardly unique to the newspaper industry. Welcome to the rest of the world.
The de-newspaperization of America is finally catching up with the de-industrialization of America. Newsroom jobs, especially decent paying ones, are vanishing everywhere -- thanks to the shrinking number of print readers and the fact that digital advertising can't fully support digital journalism.
The industry still needs to innovate. It has "only" been about 15 years since the newspaper industry felt the sting of the Web's existence. It may take 5 to 10 more years of trying and failing and innovating to figure out what will be sustainable and profitable for the future digital information landscape where we consume information more on mobile devices and Internet-ready "things" like phones, TVs, and other gadgets.
But the job losses seem to be coming faster -- and the effect on the fabric of already struggling communities is far greater -- in the rusty, rotting-factory cities of older America.
Huh? That's inflated sense of self-importance. The first step in recovery and realizing that we live in the second decade of the 21st century is to acknowledge that you ain't that important today.
We're suppose to believe that dying urban centers are the result of the dying newspaper industry. Not even close. Population declines in places like Toledo, Cleveland, and Detroit began around 1970 or sooner.
It's happening in Detroit -- where the city is bankrupt and once-vibrant blocks are reverting to prairie, and where the papers are no longer delivered to the shrinking number of urban homesteads every day of the week. It's also happening in the river city of New Orleans, where the formerly beloved Times-Picayune is called "the Sometimes Picayune" because of cutbacks in print publication and delivery.
Um, those thoughts are written by someone who is not innovating the newspaper industry for the future. Those thoughts are senseless. Decades of political stupidity has ruined those cities, not the Web and and not the decline of the print newspaper.
Ironically, newspapers once survived and even flourished because they were able to chase their readers into the suburbs during the urban flight of the 1970s and '80s. while big-city tax collectors could not. For a brief moment in time, before the Internet and when newspapers had a monopoly-type grip on local advertising, newspapers were able to shine a light into the decline of American cities and call out -- often into the darkness -- for action when other institutions were failing the citizenry. When Detroit filed for bankruptcy earlier this month, a lot of blame (and rightfully so) was assigned to the city's string of corrupt leaders like jailed ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick -- but left unsaid was that many of these scandals were exposed by reporters from the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, papers with smaller staffs and arguably less reach today.
What did those newspapers do back in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s? Kwame? Please. Kwame was the icing on the already bankrupt cake.
An author wrote in 1990 that Detroit was America's first third world city. Detroit's decline did not occur within the past 10 years when Kwame was around.
Maybe the Detroit newspapers should have worked harder over the past 40-plus years to expose more city government incompetence and malfeasance.
It's a very very sad day-- not just for the journalists involved but for all of us. For more than 40 years, we've seen America's once-great cities dying from neglect, from bad policies and worse politicians, and from the greed that moved people's jobs out of town and then across the sea -- but things might have been even worse if some great journalists hadn't been there to occasionally yell, "Timber!" Now even that legacy of the Industrial Revolution is coming to an end. Now we can only wonder: If a smokestack falls in the city and no one is there to record it, does it make a sound?
First, the author is way off by connecting dying urban centers with dying newspapers.
"It's a very very sad day ..." - Sure for a journalist who sees things as half empty. Negatively.
Sad day? Wrong. It's a great day because now people should be free to think of new ways to share information. Journalists or media types should be thinking of new ideas every day on how to shape the information landscape of the future.
Journalists should team with tech people, programmers, database administrators, and designers. Many tech people have an interest in writing, stories, news, and journalism.
Journalism schools today should be partnering with the computer science departments. Innovate. People that young, their minds should be operating on overload, thinking of new project ideas. Attempt and fail often, but keep thinking and trying.
I would say that it's an exciting time to be a journalism student in high school or college today. It might be a frightening time for "older" professional journalists who have a negative outlook on the digital world, instead of embracing the new technological landscape to the fullest.
Will Bunch says the story of the women Castro kidnapped “was kept alive for years by reporters and columnists from the Plain Dealer writing repeatedly about the cases.” When one of the women escaped, “she told her rescuers, ‘Help me, I’m Amanda Berry,’ ” he writes. “In a city with an active and engaged news media, she knew those words would mean something. In the future, in Cleveland, I’m not so sure.”
Interesting reads from 10-plus years ago at theobvious.com - Aug 23, 2013
More people reading news on tablets - Oct 08, 2013
The case for print journalism - Sep 20, 2016
Digital media and web services unbundling their products - Jun 04, 2014
Snarky, tear-down content - Dec 17, 2014