The Sunday Salon: On Journalism

by Kim on August 16, 2009 · 20 comments

The Sunday Salon.comI actually don’t have any updates on my reading life for this Sunday Salon, I think because things in my regular life (i.e. everything that’s not reading) have been sort of tough the last few days.

Over the summer I’ve been interning with the Madison city newspaper, The Capital Times (TCT). Like all newspapers, TCT and the other paper housed in our building, The Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ), have been impacted by the recession and the bigger mess that’s happening in journalism today. Newspapers are drastically losing profits and having to make major cuts, many of which are not pretty.

Last Thursday, publishers at TCT and WSJ announced plans to make it through the next fiscal years which included 15 layoffs and furloughs for all employees (plus drastic cuts to employee benefits and major structural changes to both newspapers). Even though I’m not directly impacted by this, I was still really, really upset after the meeting because it was the first time it really hit me how bad things in journalism actually are.

In some ways, I’ve been preparing to be a journalist for my whole life. I’ve always loved to write and wanted to be a writer. When I was in high school I worked for my school paper, eventually as Editor-in-Chief for two years. I worked for my college newspaper for four years, plus co-founded a news and opinion magazine. And then I went to grad school for journalism.

Being a journalist feels like it’s the job I’ve always wanted, and it’s heartbreaking and exestential-crisis causing to see the industry falling apart without knowing how to help fix it.

Logically, I know it’s actually not a bad time to be getting into journalism as young person. I’m tech-savvy, used to working online, able to learn new programs and software, and ready to adapt to journalism online. I’m ready to help journalism figure out where it’s going.

But I’m also scared. Being able to remember all of that while sitting in a newsroom full of talented journalists worried about losing their jobs is hard. And it doesn’t always make me feel more confident that I’m making good decisions — investing time and money into getting a master’s in a field that’s changing faster than any of us really understand.

So that’s life at the moment. I’m an intern with the paper for two more weeks, then I have a few days off before I’m back to school to start the second year of my master’s. And after that, I honestly have no idea.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

bermudaonion August 16, 2009 at 8:27 pm

It is a scary time indeed. People still need to know the news, though, so I feel sure the industry will change to fit today’s lifestyles. Good luck to you!

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Amy @ My Friend Amy August 16, 2009 at 9:54 pm

I’m sorry Kim, and I can kind of feel your fear. I hope that things work out and that you find the guidance you need when you need it.

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Nicole August 16, 2009 at 10:13 pm

It’s a scary time for journalists. Newspaper journalism is a sinking ship, sadly–online is where it’s at. You are well-poised to take advantage of this, so I know you will be fine. But the ethics of the profession and the way journalism is being done has changed drastically. It will never be the same again.

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Jenny aka Sister August 17, 2009 at 12:41 am

Hey sis don’t worry everything will work out for you. You have made good choices, and I am positive you will succeed. I have the same feelings about my future career as you are having about yours. But I have faith that we will work it out so don’t be discouraged, just keep up the good work and you will be able to do what you want to I know it
-J

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Michelle August 17, 2009 at 1:31 am

It’s very scary times. But at least you’re aware of these changes and can do what you can to make the best choices for your career. Good luck to you!

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Jodie August 17, 2009 at 3:29 am

Aww the world is throwing so many people out of jobs at the moment that it’s just not worth trying to pick your path based on where the work will be – there’s just no way to predict which industries will fall down and which will pick themselves up. Keep going at what you enjoy and keep your eyes open for any pit holes you need to jump. Good luck!

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softdrink August 17, 2009 at 10:06 am

Since you’re aware of the issues you can take steps to make yourself more marketable. I think being young will work to your advantage. Sometimes change is hard for those who have been in the field for a long time. They don’t want to, or can’t, adapt.

Good luck!

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Louise August 17, 2009 at 10:17 am

I am sure you are going to make it. You still have a year until your masters, and much can happen during that year. Newspapers as we know them may be on their way out, but I do not think it is something which will happen overnight or over the course of the next year! I wish you much luck with your last year :)

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Dorte H August 17, 2009 at 10:40 am

Things may change a lot in the next year, and I am sure an outgoing, creative person as you will find something to do. I really wish you luck.

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Margot August 17, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Reading your post made my heart break for you. Even though things sound bleak right now you sound like a person who still has faith in yourself and the future.

One phrase caught my attention: “the industry is falling apart.” I’m sure that statement is true for you but, may I suggest you keep good notes on every thing you see now. My hunch is that the industry is just changing and your observations five, ten, fifteen years down the road might make a great book.

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Kim August 18, 2009 at 7:48 am

Agreed. People are trying to change to fit what the industry needs, but it’s taking a long time for some organizations to adapt. Plus, it’s still very uncertain what exactly to do to adapt. But it’s happening, slowly.

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Kim August 18, 2009 at 7:49 am

Thanks Amy. Faculty and colleagues in the journalism school have been really helpful figuring out what to do, and I’ve gotten a lot of guidance and support from people here at the paper too. No one really knows what’s coming, but all have suggestions about how to prepare for it.

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Kim August 18, 2009 at 7:50 am

Blogging and other online journalism has drastically changed journalism. I find the ethics discussions among book bloggers to be especially fascinating as it mirrors so much of what journalists go through all the time. But how journalists do work — verifying sources, breaking news, multimedia — is changing dramatically.

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Kim August 18, 2009 at 7:50 am

Thanks J :)

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Kim August 18, 2009 at 7:51 am

Thanks Michelle. It is good to know things are changing so I can try and adapt. This blog, actually, has been a big help as I figure out what I want to do.

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Kim August 18, 2009 at 7:52 am

I know, it’s so scary how many people are unemployed right now! There is something to be said for not having a set career path at the moment — I can adapt to what needs to be done once I figure out what is surviving. In that sense, I’m probably better off than many other people, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.

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Kim August 18, 2009 at 7:54 am

My age is one of the things I think works for me actually, which seems counter intuitive. Usually, trying to break into an industry when you’re young means you have to work your way up the food chain. As newspapers try to move online, young people used to working with social media (like blogs!) are employable — if newspapers are hiring!

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Kim August 18, 2009 at 7:55 am

That’s true, a lot can happen between now and May. Maybe by the end of the next fiscal year, about this time in 2010, things will be looking better. We’ll see, I guess :)

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Kim August 18, 2009 at 7:55 am

Thanks Dorte :)

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Kim August 18, 2009 at 7:56 am

Ha ha, it may make a good story. Falling apart might be too strong, since I don’t think good journalism is going to just disappear. I just don’t think anyone knows how we’re going to produce and distribute good journalism… it’s sort of in a process of falling apart and no one quite knows how to put it together again.

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