Sunday, March 16, 2008

I'll have a degree, but will I have a job?

Let's take a little break from sports coverage and take a deeper look at the current state of print journalism and what the future has in store. Tomorrow I’ll be sure to report on some sports headlines: Mirabelli’s gone, Beckett’s a no go for Japan and much more.

Since I came to college and entered the journalism school, class discussions have constantly focused on the state of journalism and in particular print journalism. It isn’t breaking news to anyone that newspapers are in trouble. People are losing jobs and departments are shrinking, if not disappearing all together. The advent of online news outlets, where you can pick and choose your news and customize your news-gathering to fit your needs, has completely shook up the money making print paper. Everybody knows this and the dialogue about it is abundant, but necessary.

I tuned in to “Radio Boston” WBUR 90.9 and listened to a program which explored the question, “What’s the future of Boston newspapers, and Boston news media?” It was hosted by David Boeri and featured commentators Stephen Kurkjian of The Boston Globe and Dan Kennedy, journalism professor at Northeastern and Media Nation blogger. The focus was on Boston media, but of course it also pertains to national media as well. Here are a few things that I found interesting and jotted down:

1. There is the same number of news consumers as there has always been; they just aren’t consuming news in the same way.

Although this was a very simple and maybe obvious point, it really hit me. We constantly talk about newspapers losing readership, but we forget that people still want to read the news, they are just going to other places to find it. I am the perfect example. I love to read the news, but there are few times that I actually buy the paper. I can get all of my news for free online and I can check several media outlets. I would say that I am a Boston Globe reader, just not in the traditional sense. They haven’t lost readership, their readers are just going to their Web site. Newspapers need to find a way to make readers want to read the print paper again or they have to….

2. Find a way to make the newspaper’s Web site profitable.

If the medium where consumers get their news is changing, then it needs to be profitable, because if it isn’t -dun dun dun- news will fail to exist. The problem may not be that dramatic, but big wigs at newspapers need to get a handle on web advertising and try to find a way that it can make money. Martin Baron, the editor of The Boston Globe, called in to the show and said that they [members of the Globe staff] are trying to figure this out. He said that the Web site is generally new, 11 years old, and doesn’t bring in money. It is something they are still trying to figure out. Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at The Poynter Institute, writes about the profits of newspapers and websites. Check out this article in which he accesses newspapers and news sites profits in 2007 and this one where he analyzes a new 2008 study of advertising and news profits.

3. Change and adaptation is key.

There was a lot of talk about The Boston Globe, which makes sense since it is the major newspaper and media outlet in the Boston area. The commentators spoke about the way the paper has changed with the times and become a local news focused paper, when at one time it had much more national coverage. Buyouts and layoffs resulting in cuts in national and international departments and bureaus might be partially to blame for this change, but the Globe is doing the best thing for the paper. People can get their national news from any news site online, but they can only get their local coverage from their local paper. This guarantees readers in some capacity,online and/or print. For example, I am a huge Boston sports fan. I read the Globe everyday because that is where I can get the best Boston sports news, which I can't get anywhere else. They have changed their focus over the years, according to the commentators, but it is only for the better.

This was a very insightful discussion, one that journalists are having everyday within their own newsrooms. If the discussion continues, perhaps an answer will come or it might just need to sort itself out. The silver lining is that people want news and that will never change, we just need to find a resourceful way to give them what they want and see both parties prosper.

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