Is it Rash to Call Newspapers Dead?

newspapers-death

I recently got a phone call from a friend whose son wants to become a newspaper reporter. She wondered whether I was willing to help her dissuade him from getting into the profession. He is studying “communications” and takes courses in various aspects of “communicating.”

My friend knows there is more money in PR and marketing and that many believe the newspaper business is dying. Her son is learning the basic tools of modern technology-driven journalism, communications and PR — tools that didn’t exist when I studied my craft.

These are things that old-school reporters need to learn on their own to compete in today’s online news world. In print in the old days, we only needed to know the “Five W’s and H” (who, what, where, why, when and how) and have the driving need to be in the newspaper business.

And know how to report and write.

Despite knowing there was more money in other communications fields, and the problems with the newspaper industry, my friend’s son wants to be an old-school journalist.

He has the itch: Passionate about true journalism, the love of breaking news and beating the competition. However, he doesn’t want to strictly be an online journalist — nor a content editor, nor a communications or PR director — but a newspaper reporter.

I have been in the business for three decades and I love it. But, I was determined to play Devil’s Advocate. So when we spoke, my question was: Why?

In recent years, “Newspaper Reporter” has been at the bottom of the list of lowest paying jobs, I explained. (Schools still teach heavily attended journalism courses, because ever since Woodward and Bernstein decades ago the job has been considered sexy, so people apply.)

But this man apparently had the inexplicable gene: He was determined to become a journalist and work for a newspaper. I was not about to comply with my friend’s wishes and dissuade her son.

Will he have a place to go?

The question is are newspapers truly going or gone — or will they make a comeback because people enjoy holding printed pages and reading in-depth stories.

This is slightly simplistic, but newspapers are a risky business because the ad dollars have other “news” places to go.

Warren Buffett invested in the newspaper business, though part of his strategy has been to thin the staff. According to a shareholders’ letter Buffett wrote in 2013 after spending the previous 15 months spending approximately $334 million on newspapers:

“Newspapers continue to reign supreme, however, in the delivery of local news. If you want to know what’s going on in your town – whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football – there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job.”

Hyperlocal news seems to hold the key as to whether print survives, according to Buffett and other media industry experts.

However, this past February Buffett slightly changed his tune when he told CNBC he foresees only two major newspapers surviving in print: The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

“If you look, there are 1,300 daily newspapers left in the United States. (Berkshire Hathaway has) 31 of them. There were 1,700 or 1,800 not too long ago,” Buffett said. “Now, you’ve got the internet. Aside from the ones I mentioned, 1,400 or 1,300 of them haven’t figured out a way to make the digital model complement the print model.”

Luckily for my friend’s son, there are still small newspapers that are hiring, usually in places he never expected to visit, let alone live. I told him if he is that determined, he will find a newspaper that will appreciate his persistence. And though the paper most probably has an online element, he also will appear in print.

And, according to Poynter, those small hyperlocal newspapers will survive with community support:

“An industry that is dying is still alive. It is not dead — yet. While alive, it may continue to perform vital services to a community — services such as news and information, keeping an eye on city hall, on sewage in the bay, on the failures of local schools. It may continue to be the best we’ve got.”

Thoughts?

 

 

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When a ‘Connection’ . . . Isn’t

Zappa

You’ve sweated through high school, college — maybe graduate school. You’ve held several jobs, possibly in different careers and along the way you have met scores of people.

On LinkedIn, for example, you can find these people, or people who know these people, or those who are somehow connected. It can be a very useful tool in getting a job or more business — no complaints there.

You network elsewhere and meet more people, who know or knew people whom you know or who know of you — or who you once were.

And here my dear colleagues lies — as the late, great Frank Zappa said — the “crux of the biscuit”:

Who of these people are really connections — and which ones know who you are — TODAY? And which ones remember who you were, maybe as a different and less — or, in some cases more — appealing a colleague than you are now?

It is therefore critical that before you send your references and connections off into the world, it’s best to reconnect with the people you’re listing and make sure they are who you think they are and reinforce to them who you are at this point in your life.

I’ve been working since I was 14 and along the way have met a lot of people — been good to many — maybe not as good to others.

I have lived in several countries and, in some, actually have accomplished at a very early age what some people never accomplish in a lifetime. I can back this up.

I remember my mother telling someone when I was 21 that I had already lived three lifetimes.

But I digress.

This post is about connections — and whether they are just part of your past who can be of no help to you, or you to them.

Or even worse: They don’t remember when you were there for them and, now that you are in need, they are nowhere to be found.

So let the story be told.

As is my way, this tale will be slightly altered so no links can be made to those guilty of what I call severe and demeaning memory loss.

It was my second or third job, and I was approached by my boss and told of a colleague who had broken up with his live-in girlfriend and basically had nowhere to live.

I had taken in strays before — both human and animal — and she knew this. She also knew I had room in my house and asked if I would take the man in.

Without hesitation, I said yes.

Several years passed; my colleague was much more of a likeable character than I was — or, more likely, played the part very well. He also hung around me like a stray puppy as he built his network, through what even I will admit was intense charisma and good looks.

We still worked together, but he had found a place to live and I had moved in with my then-girlfriend.

And then several occurrences, some self-inflicted some happenstance, left me in a lurch. I was basically homeless and without a job.

So I turned to my colleague, but he said his current circumstances could offer me no solace.

Having met a sufficient number of ingrates in my life, I took it with a grain, and pulled a phoenix, getting my life back together.

Years passed. This once-homeless colleague of mine became a leader in his chosen profession and quite well known both here and abroad. I continued pursuing my career, had some setbacks here and there, but was doing quite well.

Then I heard that my old colleague had hit the pinnacle — so I approached him, not really out of immediate need, but figuring it might be of future use. Plus, I thought we might renew an old friendship.

This new superstar would not even acknowledge my existence. Worse: While speaking to mutual friends he said: “Oh yeah, I knew him — he once helped me find a place to live.”

I went ballistic and let him know as much.

As I said, he is now at the top of his profession, but I know to me — as a human being — he is still a user and manipulator.

Enough venting and personal anger; here’s reinforcing my point:

Not everyone you think is a business or personal connection really is one. And when you are in need, be careful who you turn to.

They might legitimately not be able to help or they might just not care.

My former colleague?

May he continue with his unbridled success.

And, I am glad I don’t need him now.