Tuesday, September 1, 2009

newspapers. journalism. not synonymous

The results of an Associated Press Managing Editors report shows that those newspaper reporters most likely to be shown the door are between the ages of 18 and 35.

Many reasons for this, including union rules that, when layoffs are necessary, mandate that last ones hired are first ones fired. The irony, though, is that the young guns not only pocket lower salaries -- which helps the bottom line -- but also are more cyber-savvy, which is crucial for an industry that not only has no choice but to figure out how to migrate from paper to ether -- but also needs to engage a new generation of readers. And yet.

From the story:

Retaining younger workers may be more important than ever as the Internet reshapes the way stories and photographs are assembled and presented. While many older journalists are adapting, the adjustment presumably isn't as difficult for younger workers who have grown up with the Internet and may have honed their digital skills in college. Having the viewpoints of younger workers also helps newspapers identify trends and issues affecting younger generations.

What's troubling, though, is that even the venerable AP still thinks of journalism in terms of newspapers:

With less money coming into newspapers, a large number of employees are seeking better opportunities in other industries that offer more job security, according to the survey.

"Newspapers have lost of lot of their mojo," [newspaper analyst Ken] Doctor said. "If you are 25 or 35 (years old), you are going to be part of an industry that is going to thrive in the future. That is not the way newspapers are perceived right now, rightly or wrongly."

Maybe one problem is that the old guard still thinks of journalism in terms of product, rather than process. Seems to me, if we want good reporting to survive, we need to keep the so-called youngsters, the architects of the change, on board. And, probably, replace the word "newspaper" with "journalism." The former may be dying, but that doesn't mean the latter should as well. bk

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