After reading last week’s editorial about the decline of the traditional newspaper (“A Dying Breed?,” The Hoya, March 20, 2009, A2), I realized that pursuing a career in journalism is about as practical as becoming a beeper salesman or buying AIG stock. The fact is print newspapers cannot keep up with this new sensation they call the Internet.
I recently gave the World Wide Web a try to see what all the hype was about. After hours of watching videos on YouTube’s “recommended” section like “Dog Jumping Rope” (spoiler alert: the dog jumps rope), I realized that this is no passing phase – the Internet may be here to stay.
Unfortunately, our preference of the Internet over the paper is becoming a societal norm. I say “unfortunately” because there is something to be said for reading the paper. First, it’s a social activity. Since I was a child, my parents have always woken up, made their coffee and read the Los Angeles Times. It just wouldn’t be the same if they scrolled through stories on a laptop every morning. And second, let’s be honest – who’s going to bring their laptops onto the subway or into the bathroom stall with them? In some ways, the newspaper is irreplaceable.
But print news is dwindling, there’s no doubt about it. The American Society of Newspaper Editors will meet in Chicago in April to consider changing its name to the “American Society of News Editors.” Though its acronym will be unaffected, the change is significant. It highlights the phasing out of (or at least decline of emphasis on) print media and the growing importance of online-only journalism.
Likewise, Detroit’s two daily newspapers announced that they intend to reduce home deliveries to three days a week. The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News estimate that this downsizing will save millions of dollars that would otherwise go into printing and delivering newspapers. These savings will allow management to keep their staffs intact.
Cutting newspaper deliveries may be undesirable, but we have to respect the goal it intends to achieve – protecting jobs. Many other newspaper bosses around the country haven’t hesitated to reach for the job ax.
Last August, media consultant Mark Potts compiled a database of information about newspaper layoffs. He reported that approximately 6,300 staffers had been cut from leading newspapers in the last year and close to two-thirds of the top 100 newspapers have reduced their staffs in the last year. Most of the cuts, Potts found, have come on the print side – online staffing has gone relatively unscathed. Additionally, papers are instituting hiring freezes, shrinking editions and sections, merging with other papers and even outsourcing some production overseas (I’m actually writing this column from China).
Granted, in this recession, layoffs and downsizing are occurring across the board. Newspaper staffs, though, seem to have been hit particularly hard.
Sam Zell, real estate billionaire and owner of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, announced in July that 250 jobs would be cut from the print and online newsrooms of the Los Angeles Times.
San Francisco may become the first major city to lose its newspaper. In late February, Hearst Corporation announced that The San Francisco Chronicle – a paper with a daily circulation of 339,000 – may soon be no more after the paper lost more than $50 million in 2008. If the Chronicle cannot “wring concessions” from its unions, the Hearst Corporation may have to sell or close the paper.
Luckily, my job is secure – The Hoya won’t really need to fire me because they don’t pay me. But the decline of newspapers does hit home here at The Hoya because we want you to read our paper. It takes time to write articles – time that I could just as easily spend watching “Dog Jumping Rope” again. Furthermore, college newspapers are not immune to the dangers of falling advertising revenues.
So how do we get you to read? Our editors held a meeting last semester to address that very question. Ideas like crossword puzzles and sudoku came up. I suggested we cut into the Stall Seat Journal’s hegemony by covering bathroom stalls with our paper (captive audiences have their advantages). Or somebody could make “reading The Hoya” their status on the new Facebook so that it would show up on everyone’s mini-feed.
Then, watching “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” one day, I had an epiphany that could increase our newspaper distribution exponentially: Hidden among the 6,500 print issues of the March 24 edition of The Hoya are five gold tickets. (Disclaimer: The tickets will not get you anything. We couldn’t afford prizes – times are tough.)
Remember what Grandpa Joe said? “The man’s a genius! He’ll sell a million bars.” Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Andrew Dubbins is a sophomore in the College. He can be reached at dubbinsthehoya.com. Breaking News appears every other Tuesday.
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