Monday, March 09, 2009

Black and white and read all over

Back when I was deciding such things, "journalist" was one of my prospective careers. Unlike most kids, I regularly read the newspaper, and not just the comic strips and sports section. I had a favorite local sportswriter whose columns played a part in developing my pop culture awareness and humor-inflected style. (It's there...really.)

I don't recall why, but I didn't do much with the school paper beyond my freshman year in high school. I entered college undecided between print and electronic media, although I suppose even by that time I was leaning more toward radio and TV. Both my diminished high school participation and college choices may have had something to do with being uncomfortable conducting interviews, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense considering what I ended up doing. Maybe I felt okay as long as I was the primary one talking, or perhaps it had to do with making the calls to get the interviews in the first place.

Anyway, as I started publishing reviews online, I entertained the notion of one day doing film criticism for a paper. How novel, the idea of getting paid for writing. Today, however, I realized that even if someone offered me a fulltime job as a critic at a newspaper, the wisest choice would be to decline.

Longtime newspapers are shutting down or considering ceasing hard copy distribution because sufficient readership and advertisers aren't there to make a go of it. My local daily eliminated forty-plus positions last week, including just about all of the life/arts section. Working at a newspaper may not be the least secure job around, but it certainly doesn't look like an industry one wants to be entering or staking long-term prospects on.

Hearing today about newspaper cuts (and who got the axe) didn't necessarily surprise me, but it brought to light how bad things are in the industry. I feel bad for those out of jobs, especially those I know or whose work I've enjoyed, but I feel worse that I fear it's only going to get uglier from here. It's nice to know that I'm in a (hopefully) more secure job than if I'd entered the newspaper business, but it's a shame to see an institution like that crumbling before our eyes.

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