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It’s a scary time to be a young journalist working at a newspaper.
But I have hope. Not for the newspaper industry, but for myself and my fellow journalists.
I don’t know anyone my age (25) or younger who subscribes to a newspaper. In fact, I know very few people in their 20s who read newspapers at all. They get their news online. They may read online newspapers, but many just read big-name papers or blogs. Many don’t bother keeping up with local news.
I work in a newsroom – at my hometown paper – with people I admire and respect. Some of them have worked there for decades.
Every day I’m reminded that newspapers are floundering as advertising revenue plummets and the reader base shrivels. Wage freezes have been implemented. Employees are being asked to take unpaid days off. When one employee leaves for a more secure job, the others have to pick up the slack because newspapers aren’t hiring. Some newspapers are cutting their staff to save money. Others are merging or sharing resources with competitors.
All this isn’t news anymore; it’s the norm for the industry – an industry that needs to revive itself before it’s too late.
The journalists at Food for Thought: A News Café did what most newspapers should have done a long time ago. Doni Greenberg, Kelly Brewer, and the rest of the crew have designed an attractive, user-friendly website with lots of personality. They’ve created an online community where readers can get local news and discuss it in a friendly environment.
A News Café doesn’t have a print edition, and it doesn’t need one. Online news reaches more readers, so it’s more attractive to advertisers. And advertising provides income to keep the website going, as well as helping to increase sales for local businesses. It takes less man-power to run a website than a print newspaper, and it’s more environmentally friendly, too.
The Internet has changed the way we get information, and newspapers are struggling to adapt.
Change is hard, especially when change means layoffs. Becoming an online-only newspaper would probably result in a much-reduced staff, or at least a different staff, and that’s a change that remains a last resort for most newspapers. Unfortunately, it’s going to happen sooner or later. And that’s why journalists and other newspaper employees need to start preparing themselves for the future – a future that is uncertain and frightening, a future that may or may not include printed newspapers.
It is time to consider all options, and maybe create new ones. The most successful people in the world are the ones who create, who make, who invent, who think, who do.
What can we do? For starters, we can stop counting on a regular paycheck, or even a timely income tax return. Each of us needs to be responsible for ourselves. We need to pay off our debts, build up our savings, and create our own jobs. We need to determine what our skills are and how we can use them to our benefit. Can we trade the results of our skills for the results of another’s?
The Internet is a tool that can help us learn new skills that may be more valuable or focused than the ones we already have. With some training and practice, a hobby can become a source of income. Websites such as www.lynda.com offer training videos for Photoshop, Web design, computer programming and more.
If we fail to adapt to a changing workforce, then we’re going to end up in the same boat as the newspaper industry. Each of us must take responsibility for our own lives and make them what we want them to be.
Life is ours.
We should take it.
Journalist Lauren Brooks lives in Chico. She is the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record’s weekly entertainment guide, The Buzz. She is a CSU, Chico alumna who graduated with a B.A. in journalism in spring 2006. She can be reached at email@example.com.