I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had the “what are you doing after graduation” talk with friends and family over the past year. Until recently, I didn’t know how to respond. Now I know that I will be working (somewhere, not sure where yet…) at a job that hopefully won’t feel like a job.
Whenever I’m asked about my major, usually I get positive responses. Sometimes I talk to people who might be more media savvy or are familiar with the current state of journalism who wish me “good luck” in a sarcastic tone. Most people assume that I want to work at a newspaper or be a reporter, and somehow always follow that assumption up with “well newspapers are dying, right?” That is still a question I don’t know how to answer.
But I can’t deny that the fate of print newspapers is looking bleak. I don’t have to look far to find an example of this. At UMass, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, New England’s largest college daily newspaper, no longer prints on Fridays due to budget constraints. They’ve also redesigned their website this year, a sign that they may be moving more towards the online direction? It’s becoming more costly for newspapers to print as more people get their news from mobile devices (on many sites for free).
I think many, many years from now we will see the death of print newspapers. We still have editors in newsrooms who refuse to give up print editions, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Print newspapers were how journalism was born. But how many people have time to sift through a newspaper if they can get the same information from a compact mobile device that can organize the news more efficiently?
However, I don’t think that we will ever see the death of print magazines, at least for many, many years. There’s something about the layout of magazines that make them more attractive to read, they’re more like a book. The Boston Herald is a paper I love to read because of how its laid out, you read it like you would read a book. No opening and unfolding pages and making a mess of everything, the herald did away with all that. If more newspapers were organized like the herald, maybe people would be more keen on reading them, that’s just my theory. I think if we can get print newspapers to be smaller and better laid out like the herald, they may still have a viable future.
Readers will continue to influence the news and play a greater role in the newsroom. Social media has made that inevitable. I also think we’re heading towards no online content being free anymore. We’re already seeing this with TV shows requiring you to prove that you pay for cable. Why should journalists give away their work for free? They do the quality hard work like people in other fields do.
Paying for information has always been a part of the human story and it’s what has separated the haves from the have-nots across the centuries (ex-only wealthy families used to be able to afford to send their children to college). There was never an expectation that the print newspaper would be free, so why should we have an expectation that online news is free? Advertising may be saving some newspapers from putting up pay walls for now, but in the future it won’t be enough to sustain operations as people will have millions of options for where they can get their news from.