It’s been far too long since we’ve posted, a delay caused by a concatenation of personal crises, and we doubt we’ll be posting at our previous volume, but some recent developments in the journalism world merit at least a mention.
Journalism as a way for a serious young student of the world to make a respectable living is virtually dead, as evidenced by the latest flurry of layoffs to hit the craft [and, no, journalism is not a profession, in part because the First Amendment forbids it].
The simple fact is that paying jobs, except for a few survivors at Big Name institutions, are fading away, with so-called citizen journalists [i.e., unpaid] replacing them. So forget about expensive investigations, with five- and six-figure sums can be shelled out in pursuit of stories, with no guarantee of results in advance. It’s far cheaper to stalk celebrities and print corporate handouts. . .
Okay, with the grumbling out of the way, let’s get on to the latest body counts.
First up, from the Poynter MediaWire, graphic evidence that half the nation’s newsroom jobs have vanished in the last quarter-century, falling from nearly 60,000 in 1990.
The American Society of News Editors annual newsroom census, released this morning, found that job losses accelerated in 2014, falling by more than 10 percent in a single year.
The net job loss of 3,800 brings the total number of news professionals to 32,900 — with additional losses clearly taking place so far in 2015. That total is down just over 40 per cent from a pre-recession peak of 55,000 in 2006.
It’s the biggest single year drop since the industry was shedding more than 10,000 jobs in 2007 and 2008. The comparable figure for 2013 was 1,300 jobs and 2,600 in 2012.
And what about those who still hold jobs?
The outlook is grim, as noted in another Poynter MediaWire report:
Those who remain have suffered from industrywide wage stagnation, with journalists at many traditional media companies not seeing real pay raises since the 2008 recession and classified ad revenue crash. Health insurance cost increases, furloughs, and 401(k) and other benefit cuts have actually meant a pretty significant pay cut for most.
And for a case in point, consider the journalists of the Springfield, Ill., State Journal-Register, as the United Media Guild reports:
The UMG has been negotiating a first contract at the newspaper for three years. Many veteran journalists at the newspapers have gone eight years without a raise. In its latest offer, GateHouse Media essentially offered a pay cut — since its offer included no raises and increased health insurance costs that would far outstrip the modest signing bonuses.
And now, the latest news bad news
First up, the New York Daily News has been laying off journalists right and left this month — close to 50 at last count — as the paper’s circulation numbers continue a precipitous decline from more than one million daily to around 300,000 today
The NYDN once boasted the nation’s largest daily circulation. . .
Another newspaper that once owned the same honors continues its own precipitous decline, the Los Angeles Times.
An estimated 80 jobs are due to face the chop in the 500-strong Times newsroom. Just ten years earlier the paper boasted a newsroom staff of a thousand. While in 1999, circulation topped a million a day, by the end of last year the number was down to a mere 370,000.
The Tribune corporation, owner of the Times, bought out the San Diego Union-Tribune earlier this year, promptly laying off a third of its workforce. Of the 178 let go, most came from the paper’s press room following the decision to print the San Diego paper on the Times’s presses. Only nine of 173 editorial staffers got the chop.
More layoffs are expected at other Tribune Publishing papers, including the flagship Chicago Tribune, in part because company stock has plunged over the past 12 months from a high in December of $23.73 to today’s $8.07.
One fifth of the full-time newsroom employees of NOLA Media Group, publisher of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, were axed earlier this month, with additional cuts hitting part-timers and regional correspondents.
From the paper’s website:
NOLA Media Group announced today that it is restructuring its news operation to reinforce its core journalistic mission. The changes are designed to focus on topics that are important to readers and have driven the substantial readership growth of NOLA.com, making it one of the country’s top local news websites.
The restructuring will also lead to operational efficiencies and will result in an overall reduction of 28 full-time and 9 part-time content staffers – or 21 percent of the overall content operation’s full-time employees, according to NOLA Media Group President Ricky Mathews.
In Pennsylvania, the owners of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette negotiated buyouts, making offers to 120 employees, many if not most in the paper’s dwindling newsroom. At least the paper held a party for their departing staff.
And consider the case of one small paper, located on rich turf:
It’s now a yearly ritual: The Palm Beach Post‘s publisher is about to visit with the owners of the dying newspaper in Atlanta to find out how many more layoffs are coming in the fall.
Publisher Tim Burke announced his upcoming trip during a recent staff meeting in the near-empty headquarters of the media organization on South Dixie Highway, saying there’s little doubt layoffs are in the cards, according to an insider.
While the numbers are still being worked on, Gossip Extra hears at least 11 people could lose their jobs, maybe more.
The website notes that the Post has shed 75 percent of its staff in the last decade.
Wire services aren’t immune from the woes afflicting their subscribers, with Bloomberg the latest to impose cuts, as Talking Biz News reported 1 September:
Layoffs at Bloomberg’s editorial operations began Tuesday morning and totaled 55 in the United States — much less than the 80 to 100 estimates that had been reported earlier this month.
The cuts hit the Washington newsroom and the sports desk the hardest. Bloomberg had also conducted some layoffs in Washington in August 2014. Bloomberg News had also made some layoffs in November 2013.
The woes are also being felt north of the border, where, as CBC News reported Thursday:
Montreal news institution La Presse announced on Thursday 158 people would be leaving the newspaper, including 43 positions within its editorial department.
Of the 158, 102 of the positions are permanent, full-time jobs. . .
There will be 633 staff members left at La Presse after the laid-off staff leave.
Back on this side of the border, even public television is under the gun, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazettte reports:
WQED Multimedia will cut staff and executives’ salaries to trim millions in long-term debt.
The company’s board Thursday approved a three-year restructuring plan that includes reducing staff — which was about 60 full-time employees before up to a reported 17 layoffs began Thursday morning — as well as reducing executives’ salaries and revamping its dwindling lineup of locally produced television and FM radio programming.
Among those out of a job is Michael Bartley, producer and on-air host, who six days ago accepted a Mid-Atlantic Emmy award on behalf of WQED. Also included were on-air talent Tonia Caruso and producer Pierina Morelli, both of whom have won numerous awards.
All in all, it’s been a very bad year for the Fourth Estate, with no rays of hope visible on the horizon.