The newspaper industry on its deathbed

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 12:38 AM EDT
The newspaper industry on its deathbed story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The new rankings are out, and it says if you're a newspaper reporter, you have the worst, lowest ranked job in the United States.

The career-guidance web site evaluated 200 professions, and based on pay, chances for advancement, work environment, and stress, says being a newspaper reporters is as low as it goes.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says the demise of the traditional newspaper is coming, and that we'll all be the lesser for it.


I confess that I'm a hopeless romantic about some things. And newspapering is, and has been for as long as i can remember, at the very top of the list.

It's where I began, at a weekly on Martha's Vineyard, then at the Miami Herald, and wrapping up before i jumped into television, at the Louisville Times. All three papers put a premium on generating relevant local stories, making sure we had our facts straight, and then making them come alive by  injecting rhythm and melody as best we could.

At the Louisville paper, we even had an editor who'd roam the giant newsroom repeating, "make it sing, boys and girls...make it sing." Everyone was on deadline, and the clacking, typewriter atmosphere hummed along somewhere between desperation and exhilaration.

The truth is, I was living a dream. I'd been a newspaper reader my entire life. I loved the touch and feel and all that stuff in it. And then to be a part of that daily drama—from finding the story; to putting it together; getting it past the battery of  editors; to hearing the presses begin to roll; to hearing the street hawkers around town shouting about the story I had just written to get people to buy a copy—was beyond exciting.

None of us made much money, but we all knew that going in. For most of us, it was a calling. Something pulled us there.

As time went by and there were families to support, lots of my colleagues found  other, better paying avenues. But there were always talented newcomers waiting to take their places.

Now...virtually every newspaper in the country is on life support.

Advertising is down. Circulation is down. Revenues are down. The cost of printing and delivering a newspaper can cost five to ten times what it costs you and me to buy. And that, obviously, doesn't generate much hope for the future.

As a result, there are fewer reporters and editors. And as another logical result, you can regularly hear someone accurately complain,   "there's nothing in this rag anymore.”

To make matters worse, online competition gets stiffer every year.

And now comes a survey to say the once dashing, romantic, and often adventurous job of being a newspaper reporter is the worst one you can get.

Not bad—the worst. Behind being a lumberjack or a G.I.

If that's not a death knell for an industry, I don't know what is.

Money was never what attracted us to this business in the first place. But there comes a time when you have to make enough money to have a life. As it is, the median income is a meager $36-thousand dollars and  likely to shrink.

In recent years some 350 newspapers have closed their doors or gone to online-only editions. Many others are in trouble.

The survey says many of the best and the brightest among us are now opting to become actuaries, software or biomedical engineers, audiologists, and financial planners.

Its often said people have a right to know. But more than that, particularly in a democracy, people have a need to know.

But newspapers, with all their accountability, are dying. I mourn their passing. And I worry about them being replaced by an online world where truth and accuracy—think about the White House bombing report just the other day—may be as elusive as cyberspace itself.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.
The newspaper industry on its deathbed
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Washington Times