I was sitting in a conference call recently discussing the upcoming Nebraska Press Convention in Lincoln and the speakers we have lined out. From what the committee and colleagues have shared with me, the event is one of excitement for reporters, who hope to be recognized for their work throughout the previous year, and for editors and publishers looking toward the future of their papers. That got me thinking about the future of journalism.
Throughout my time in college, professors spoke about the death of print journalism as the rise in technology changed the industry. It’s been eight years since that lecture and thankfully for many of us, myself included, print is not dead and nowhere close to it either.
Examining that statement further, the mainstream media has written the obituary for print journalism many times to the point it is old news, but how does this coverage impact the future of the industry? According to The New Yorker article, “Does Journalism have a future?” by Jill Lepore, newspapers have been closing across the country. That does not mean news has stop.
“Between 1970 and 2016, the year the American Society of News Editors quit counting, 500 or so dailies went out of business; the rest cut news coverage, or shrank the paper’s size, or stopped producing a print edition, or did all of that, and it still wasn’t enough,” Lepore wrote.
Within the past five years, more reports of newspapers closing or employee lay-offs have made national news.
Lepore said a third of the nation’s largest newspapers reported layoffs between January 2017 and April 2018. Some of those papers included the San Jose Mercury News and the Denver Post.
One of my college friends was one of the many young journalists laid off by the Denver Post, which was hard to hear. She had to re-brand herself and found employment at a Colorado magazine company.
So what’s the big deal?
The newspaper industry has been around for centuries. According to Poynter, the first colonial newspaper was published in 1690. It was called “Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick.”
Following the first edition, the British governor forced publisher Benjamin Pierce to close down the paper due to “reflections of a very high nature” and not having a valid printing license.
Newspapers have been a source of local and national news in America for a long time, overcoming local and national government efforts to silence the freedom of the press. Still, the industry pushes on, at least for now.
A review of bachelor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions from the National Center for Education Statistics show a steady increase in graduates with degrees in communication, journalism, and related programs. During the 2016-17 academic year, 93,778 degrees were conferred within the communication and journalism field, but where are these graduates going?
The number of journalists is being outpaced by public relations specialists as data from the U.S. Census revealed for every one reporter, there are six PR workers. That number has grown over the past 20 years when the numbers were one reporter for every 1.6 PR specialist. The disparity is likely to worsen.
The Labor Department projections indicate a 9% increase of public relation specialists by 2026 since 2016 with estimates around 282,000 specialists. Oppositely, the projections for reporters, correspondents and broadcast news are expected to decline 9% to 45,900.
Such news can be disheartening, but that’s only if we believe the course has been chosen and cannot be changed. I believe it can. We have to share our passion for this industry with young journalists and believe in the future before we can convince the community that print is not dead.
In an effort to connect with young journalists, the Nebraska Press Convention committee welcomed young journalists onto the committee.
As we plan for the annual convention, we have to focus on continuing to connect with the next generation. To do that, we have to inspire them and show them how to be successful by providing guidance on owning and operating a successful newspaper.
As a young journalist, I don’t want to see this industry die simply because it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.
If the publishers, editors and veteran reporters don’t show the next generation how to get through the battles, then maybe we will die. That’s why mentors are important to the future of our industry. They provide guidance on how to overcome obstacles and tell success stories of how to grow this industry.
While sharing such knowledge can be a challenge as it is a sign of change, it can also be a source of new ideas to push the industry forward into this print and digital age of consumerism.
It’s time to pass the torch to the next generation of journalists by inspiring them about the bright future of our industry.
We have to show them what it takes to run successful newspapers from the small town weekly to a regional daily newspaper.
Our future is bright and it starts with we as journalists changing the script, believing in ourselves and inspiring young journalists.