Wednesday, July 23, 2008

‘Without journalism, there is no hope for progress.’


What's up with recently laid-off, fired, bought out, or increasingly squeezed print journalists—and what are they thinking as the newspaper business continues to nosedive? Columbia Journalism Review's website has invited them to rant. New parting thoughts—or shots—are being added daily. Most recently, 38-year newspaper veteran John Sugg writes, "...For four decades, newspaper owners consistently have sacrificed integrity and watchdog reporting in favor of one grab-the-cash scheme after another." Don't even think of blaming the Internet for all of this:

The other giant lie perpetrated by publishers is that they were bushwhacked by the Internet... For almost thirty years, the tree-killing, oil-wasting publishers knew the days were numbered for their manufacturing plants. Sure, they built Web sites, generally pretty awful. And they became excellent at portraying themselves as victims of Craigslist, Google, and the rest of the Internet. As the newspaper circulations plummeted, the advertising rates soared—what a deal for the publishers! Even better, they could fire (pick the euphemism) all of those non-revenue-producing, pesky journalists.

But at least some sacked journalists have learned from the experience, like the recently-fired Jim Spencer, formerly of the Denver Post:

I have learned a lot in the past year. I have learned that exemplary work at the Virginian-Pilot, the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Press in Newport News, Virginia, and the Denver Post carries little weight where profit margins rule. I have learned that friends at other papers—even those with executive titles—are powerless to help me, because of the state of the industry. I have learned that being a columnist apparently keeps me from being hired as a reporter or feature writer, even though I was both before I took up commentary. I have learned that a six-month temporary assignment running a newsroom of sixty-three reporters and editors does not count as management experience.

(Frustrated journalists, take note—they're looking for contributors.)

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