So what’s to be learned from the most recent journalism cuts? That giving away content for free online does not make sense? Or that publishers and editors continue to stumble over new media, falling flat when it comes to selling the news?
Nothing is clear except that news organizations are struggling. Yesterday, NASCAR Scene, one of auto racing’s most respected print publications, laid off about two-thirds of its staff.
Writes SpeedTV’s Tom Jensen: “For more than 25 years, Scene was to NASCAR what the Wall Street Journal was to business reporting or the Washington Post was to political coverage: Definitive and authoritative. If you heard a rumor, it wasn’t true until it appeared in print in Scene. Period.”
Jensen, the executive editor of NASCAR Scene, blames social media and and the Internet for making the publication obsolete, despite a paid circulation of nearly 150,000 not too long ago. “But the switch to first digital and then social media,” he writes, “made a weekly print racing magazine as obsolete as a buggy whip, no matter how good the writing and photography.
That’s a fear among many journalists: How do media organizations make money by giving away the product for free? Fans, though, also need to worry: How will they get news with any depth when fewer reporters remain on the beat?
“The argument can be made that the sport is still being covered by TV and on the Internet, and that transcripts and video of interviews are being distributed by NASCAR staffers,” writes Rick Minter for RacinToday.com, a website that has attracted several experienced auto racing writers. ”But what good are those transcripts if the questions being asked aren’t the right ones or the best ones? Can a really good, in-depth story really be written based on a 10- or 15-minute interview session with reporters crowded around a driver behind a hauler in a noisy garage?
Until news media companies can find a way to better embed advertising, we’re going to see more closings. Eventually, I believe journalism is going to thrive regardless if it is offered online, on cell phones, in chips embedded in our heads – whatever. But the industry is going to face more tough times first.
In the meantime, work hard to hone your reporting and writing skills, learn new media skills, and keep working hard so when the job market does start growing again, you’ll be prepared to take on these new challenges.