Possible End of an Era

It nearly breaks my heart what’s happening to my former profession of journalism.

Once upon a time, newspapers were a training ground for wanna-be writers. Often-crusty editors whipped into line whole generations of young reporters, fresh from J-school with stars in their eyes and hopes of uncovering corruption. Another Watergate, perhaps.

And maybe even winning a Pulitzer in the bargain.

When I recall how naive we all were, how patient our editors were in teaching us the things we didn’t know, I have to smile.

My first “real” job out of college was as a reporter for an evening daily newspaper in Texas, covering what was deemed the “dinner circuit.” Every day, I’d be treated to lunch or dinner with one or another service club (Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.), and I’d gather information about their members for inclusion in a twice-weekly column I wrote. Birthdays, anniversaries, funny stories, all were fodder for my columns. Evenings, I attended meetings — area city councils, transportation boards, etc. — then wrote up a news story for publication in the next day’s paper.

My bosses lived on Maalox and cigarettes, chugging the former like water and puffing until clouds of smoke hung overhead (some even lit a new one before finishing the old).

The tapping of keyboards, the rushing around of reporters, the clanging of telephones — a newsroom wasn’t a quiet oasis! But the sharing of ideas and stories and humor, the excitement of hearing something new before anybody else heard it, the camaraderie, made it a fascinating and fabulous place to work.

Every once in a while, we’d hear of a colleague who was penning “the great American novel” in his or her free time. Or one who had aspirations of swapping newspaper reporting for magazines. Or public relations. Or for some politician’s press corps.

Our digital age has changed lots of that.

Maybe the saddest change is an announcement by The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. They plan to cut back publication this fall to just three days a week. After 175 years of service.

If that happens, NOLA will be the largest city in the U.S. without a daily paper.

Sure, printing revenues are down. But cutting the newsroom staff by a whopping 50 percent in favor of an online version? In a city where many residents don’t even have Internet connections?

The marketing department will be slashed to one person. Special section employees, library, and human resources — all cut. Pressroom severed by nearly 40 percent.

I never worked for the T-P, but having worked on other newspapers for about two decades, I can easily put faces to these statistics. They could have been my friends, my colleagues. We could have laughed together and shared successes.

Now I’m crying for them, their families, New Orleans, and my old profession.

Something special is dying.

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20 thoughts on “Possible End of an Era

  1. Debbie, This is certainly a microcosm of what is happening throughout the entire publishing industry,affecting all those things we hold so dear;things we grew up with- libraries, bookstores, daily newspapers. I enjoyed hearing more about your journalism background. I feel the sadness along with you. High tech replacing people and requiring a new skill set for those coming along make me feel like something special is dying,too.

    • Thanks for reading and commiserating, Kathy. I have a friend who always tells me, We lived in the Best of Times. She might be right. I know we’re supposed to enjoy whatever era we live in, but it’s still sad to see a whole way of life dying out.

  2. As much as I love digital there’s one thing it can’t replace….relationship. Much of what we see today isn’t journalism it’s sensationalism and a headline. Lou Grant and working next to the Tribune is the closest I have ever been to a newspaper newsroom but I did grow up with parents who watched the news every night and read the paper over coffee every day while discussing current events. I use to live for the Sunday paper. Times are changing and some of what we are losing is very precious.

    • My parents, too, watched the TV news and read the daily paper — my mom still does! The profession has changed as times have changed. I think in an effort to please everybody, too many media outlets refuse to take any stand and thus please nobody. They hike advertising and subscription rates, then offer news online for free. Wonder why they don’t see this as a recipe for failure??

  3. –Debbie,
    I adore social media, but it is getting a bit ridiulous & utterly impersonal.
    One does not even write out cards anymore…We even get those online.
    Technology is Fabulous, but there should be boundaries, limits.
    For example, I want REAL paper to hold in my hands, not a screen in front of my face all day long. ….

    Xx

    • Ah, Kim, well said! That’s one reason I’ve resisted getting a Kindle — because I LOVE the smell of paper and ink, LOVE the feel of a real book in my hands! Call me vintage, but there’s nothing quite as relaxing and grounding as browsing the stacks of a library. (This, from a person who spends a GREAT deal of her time online every day, haha!)

  4. It is hard to embrace change, especially change that results in so many job cuts. I watch the news on TV a couple times a week and read a bit online, but much of the online news isn’t really news at all.

    • I hate to admit it, but I’m glad I got out of journalism when I did and got into Web Design! I love being online, love technology and what it can do — it’s just sad to hear of so many young people interested in being journalists when papers are folding everywhere (not to mention the “oldsters” who really can’t do anything else losing their jobs!)

  5. Makes me sad, Debbie. My sister works for the Philadelphia Daily News and has to face this every day. It sickens me, but this has been the cycle of life. New technologies enter the landscape and ultimately end up pushing out old ones. When we were young, we thought what we had would be around forever, didn’t we? Like record albums, landlines, newspapers and magazines. My family subscribed to a daily, a weekly, and an assortment of magazines. But that’s a rarity now. Sigh.

    • Your sister works for the Daily News? How exciting that must be! I pray she’s one of the fortunate ones and can keep her job as long as she wants it! I rather enjoy reading news online, but I can’t see any way around them eventually charging for it. I don’t imagine too many people would yell “Foul!” over that, do you? They’ve got to have some way to recoup their losses, after all.

    • Yes! Crinkling those pages is wonderful, as is clipping manufacturers’ coupons, recipes, comic strips, your kids’ honor roll announcements, etc. I know we can read them online and print them out, too, but it’s just not the same.

  6. Didn’t know anything about the world of journalism. Your blog was insightful. I agree with you about the sadness of the families of those laid off. This world is changing….and not for the better for the most part.

    • Thanks, Tanya. I guess we praying folks just have that many more petitions to offer up, don’t we? I’m always saddened to hear of people losing their jobs and livelihoods.

      • I’ve been there. My husband started his own business 7 years ago and it was in the banking loan industry. He lost his business because of the banking mess, we lost our home and are still trying to recover. This was the 3rd time it happened to us…..so I know very well what people are going through. This was VERY painful to go through…but God gave us a way out and we survived. One can’t hold on to or be overly invested in material things…because they could be taken away and that’s hard… but when you still have your life, your family and your faith….that is the important things of life. You can always recover and rebuild losses.

  7. Debbie, the world surely is changing so fast! I have left my first career behind also. What I miss most about my first love of nursing? The comraderie! We all crave connectivity and the old and new ways of journalism surely connected so many.

    • I never knew you were in nursing! Glad to hear I’m not the only career-changer around! I can imagine how much you miss the camaraderie — that’s a big reason I miss journalism, too. Doesn’t hurt that now I work for myself, by myself — a bit more isolated, wouldn’t you agree?? Thanks for your thoughts!

  8. Debbie, I remember sitting around the breakfast table with my father reading the newspaper. He always got the sports page while I made a grab for the comics. I was ten. When I was fourteen and in ninth grade, I was editor of our school paper. Editor! The day I got my first by line, I was over the moon. I was also in charge of an advice column, under the protective supervision of the journalism teacher, dear Mrs. Baker. In high school, I wrote little articles for the local community paper and I loved, loved it. I too have resisted getting a Kindle for the same reason. Nothing beats holding a paper or book, smelling the pages and turning them. I love technology but the fact that it’s killing off other forms of media is sad. I think only the older generation remain attached to real newspapers. When I think of how much joy journalism has brought me and how it is now being affected the way that it is, my heart breaks. I’m with you regarding the sense of loss and sadness. Whatever will we do when the only books, cards, magazine and newspaper publications we can read are only online? Dear Lord, help us. Double sigh.

    • Ah, Bella, see? I didn’t know that about you, my friend. I, too, grabbed the comics first! I didn’t work on our school paper when I was in high school, but I did in college, of course. If not for newspapers, the oldsters always said, who would tell us the truth? Technology is wonderful and it’s the way I make my living today, but oh, how I miss real books and newspapers. That doesn’t make me an “old fogey,” does it?? Why can ALL forms of reading and writing coexist peacefully?!

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