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 careercast.com 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.

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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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Last Update on April 24, 2014 07:31 GMT

WORLD MARKETS

TOKYO (AP) -- Asian shares lacked a clear direction today as players took a mostly wait-and-see view ahead of talks between Japan's prime minister and visiting President Barack Obama.

The focus is on what Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may say about negotiations on a wide-reaching trans-Pacific trade agreement, despite resistance from local interests on both sides to wiping out tariffs.

Sentiments on Asian markets were dampened by worries about the U.S. economy, highlighted by a surprise drop in new home sales as well as dismal earnings.

The pessimism overshadowed confirmation from the European Union that Greece achieved a primary surplus in 2013 -- what's left when interest payments are stripped out.

The dollar fell against the euro and was little changed against the yen.

Benchmark crude oil fell but remains above $101.50.

ECONOMY- THE DAY AHEAD

Major business and economic reports scheduled for today

WASHINGTON -- The government's weekly jobless claims report comes out today.

Also, the government will release March durable goods numbers and Freddie Mac will report weekly mortgage rates.

A slew of quarterly earnings reports will be released today.

Before the market opens, investors will hear from Aetna, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Altria Group, General Motors, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, 3M , Caterpillar, Verizon, and UPS.

After the closing bell, Amazon.com, Starbucks, Visa and Microsoft will report their quarterly financial results.

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The social network says it earned $642 million, or 25 cents per share, in the January-March quarter, up from $219 million, or 9 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. Adjusted earnings were $885 million or 34 cents per share.

Facebook says its revenue was $2.5 billion, up 71 percent from $1.46 billion in the same period a year ago.

Analysts expected adjusted earnings of 24 cents per share on revenue of $2.36 billion.

Facebook says its finance chief, David Ebersman, is leaving on June 1 after five years. He'll be replaced by David Wehner, currently vice president of corporate finance and business planning.

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DALLAS (AP) -- Texas Instruments is giving an upbeat forecast for the current quarter after the chipmaker's first-quarter profit rose 35 percent.

Texas Instruments makes semiconductors used in consumer devices and industrial equipment and is reducing its reliance on chips used in smartphones and tablets. The company said that revenue from chips that convert analog signals to digital ones and from embedded technology such as microcontrollers accounted for 84 percent of first-quarter sales. Both segments grew by double-digit percentages.

Meanwhile, revenue from everything else tumbled by 28 percent.

Net income was $487 million, or 44 cents per share, including a gain of 2 cents per share from a sale that the company had not included in previous guidance to investors. The results compared with year-ago profit of $362 million, or 32 cents per share. Revenue grew 3 percent to $2.98 billion.

For the second quarter, the company predicted that earnings would be between 55 cents and 63 cents per share on revenue of $3.14 billion to $3.40 billion.

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BEIJING (AP) -- China's government says it will open 80 projects in eight state-run industries to private and foreign investors as part of efforts to make its slowing economy more efficient.

The Cabinet announcement is the latest in a series of policy changes aimed at carrying out the ruling Communist Party's promises to give entrepreneurs and foreign investors a bigger role in the state-dominated economy.

The statement late Wednesday gave no indication whether private investors would be given any control over the newly opened industries, which include oil and hydro power.

Other industries cited by the statement were wind power, natural gas storage and distribution, solar power, coal, railways and port operations.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose new open Internet rules that would allow content companies to pay for faster delivery over the so-called "last mile" connection to people's homes.

The proposed rules also call for enhanced scrutiny of such deals so they don't harm competition or limit free speech.

That's according to a senior FCC official familiar with the matter who wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is to present the proposed rules to the other commissioners on Thursday.

The new rules are meant to replace the FCC's open Internet order from 2010, which was struck down by a federal appeals court in January.

While the older rules technically allowed for paid priority treatment, such dealings were discouraged.

TRAIN SAFETY-EMERGENCY ACTION

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of the National Transportation Safety Board says the Obama administration needs to take steps immediately to protect the public from potentially catastrophic oil train accidents even if it means using emergency authority.

Deborah Hersman, wrapping up a two-day forum on the rail transport of oil and ethanol, said the Transportation Department shouldn't wait for the usual federal rulemaking process to run its course. She urged regulators to use their authority to issue emergency orders or interim rules to bring about tougher standards for tank cars used to haul oil and ethanol.

She said the risks of such accidents are clear and waiting will only lead to a "higher body count."

Hersman praised Canadian authorities who announced Wednesday that they banning or phasing out older, more dangerous tank cars.

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NEW YORK (AP) -- The pay of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s outgoing CEO fell 73 percent in 2013 because he didn't get stock awards that are given in anticipation of future performance as well as a lower performance-based bonus.

The world's largest retailer gave Mike Duke, 64, a compensation package worth about $5.6 million including a base salary of $1.4 million and a performance-based bonus of $2.8 million for the fiscal year that ended on Jan. 31.

Other compensation totaled $490,090, including retirement contributions and $144,586 for personal use of company aircraft.

The AP's calculation counts salary, bonuses, perks and stock and options awarded to the executive during the year.

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Warren Buffett says he disapproves of Coca-Cola's highly contested pay plan for its executives.

Buffett, the beverage maker's largest shareholder, called the plan "excessive" in an interview on CNBC after the plan was approved at the company's annual meeting.

But Buffett said Berkshire Hathaway abstained from voting against the pay plan because he believes in Coca-Cola's management and CEO Muhtar Kent.

The pay plan came under scrutiny after Wintergreen Advisers took public issue with it last month. Wintergreen CEO David Winters said the plan was a "raw deal" for shareholders that would transfer roughly $13 billion to management over the next four years. He urged Buffett to vote against the plan.

In a statement, Coca-Cola Co. says it respects Buffett's "philosophical stance on equity-based compensation."

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