Newspapers have been in decline for a number of years now, and the general assumption is that among the reasons for this decline are the growth of online news coupled with a broad decline in advertising revenue.
But according to one young reporter who recently quit the newspaper business, it’s really the newspapers that killed newspapers.
Allyson Bird, 28, who started writing stories for her local newspaper when she was 16, had planned to make journalism her career. She began by working in West Palm Beach, and survived several rounds of layoffs as the business model deteriorated. When her father was stricken with cancer, she took a cut in pay to move to South Carolina to be with him and work for the local paper.
But Bird’s enthusiasm, as a 21-year old, soon faded:
The flip side to the excitement is the burnout. You’re exhausted, and you’re never really ‘off.’ You get called out of a sound sleep to drive out to a crime scene and try to talk with surviving relatives. You wake up at 3 a.m. in a cold sweat, realizing you’ve misspelled a city councilman’s name. You spend nights and weekends chipping away at the enterprise stories that you never have time to write on the clock.
Everyone works so hard for so long and for such little compensation.
It was those long hours and low pay that Bird said left her “supremely unsatisfied.”
Apparently Bird isn’t alone in her sentiments.
I spoke with a former AIM intern who had been working for a local television station in Virginia. She recently quit her job to sell luxury cars because she wasn’t making enough money to take care of rent, student loans, etc., and she was doing the job of two people (reporter and videographer), while getting paid for just one.
Did newspapers kill newspapers? For the most part the answer is yes. They failed to accurately predict how technology would affect their business, and they were too wedded to their hidebound ways to make the necessary adjustments to remain relevant. That, combined with the recession, was more than enough to drive many of them into bankruptcy and out of business.
The future of newspapers is bleak. Only the strongest will survive over the next decade, and even then in a vastly different form than today, as technology marches on and their cheap labor supply evaporates.