So, newspapers ... I didn't start this blog intending to talk too much about them, as I don't have any new insight to share. Everything that can be said about newspapers — that they're struggling to make ends meet, that they're mostly to blame for their troubles, etc. — already has been repeated ad nauseam. As for me, I took a job with a corporate newspaper and it came back to bite me on the ass. There's not much more to say on the matter.
But I will say this: The situation, both mine and journalism's, really sucks. Newspapers are cutting publication days, shaving staffs and replacing local voices with homogenized wire content. Some of them, believe or not, are raising prices in the process. The unemployment lines, meanwhile, are becoming increasingly crowded with intelligent, creative, hard-working ex-journalists.
None of this I could have possibly imagined 13 years ago when I entered journalism school. I left for college in the fall of 1996, right about when the Internet started creeping into the minds of the general populace. That summer, I had my first taste of the Web through a trial AOL membership. I remember e-mailing back and forth with friends — the conversations said little beyond, "Hey, look at me, I'm e-mailing!" "Hey, me, too!" None of us had any idea it would come to control our lives.
If I could go back in time, would I change my major? Perhaps — I at least would take some Web courses. Yet, I wouldn't trade my newspaper experience for anything. I like newspapers. Working for one can be a hell of a lot of fun when times are good and there's money to throw around (relatively speaking, of course — there aren't many rich journalists beyond evening news anchors). But I don't know anyone having fun working at a newspaper right now.
There's a general malaise in newsrooms across the country, as one would expect when workloads increase, paychecks shrink and the possibility of losing your job hangs over your head like a perpetual inversion. A deadline-driven environment will always have its share of stress, but as staffs shrivel and rumors of more cuts spread, well, you can imagine what kind of work climate that is. Some people stay positive, some project doom and gloom, others try to keep it all hid and slap on their happy face. But it gets harder and harder to smile the smaller the newsroom gets.
Right before I left, a coworker told me he sees ex-Statesman employees a few months after they leave and they look 10 years younger. Now I know what he was talking about.