For newspapers, the news has swiftly gone from bad to worse. This
year is taking shape as their worst on record, with a double-digit drop
in advertising revenue, raising serious questions about the survival of
some papers and the solvency of their parent companies.
Ad revenue, the primary
source of newspaper income, began sliding two years ago, and as hiring
freezes turned to buyouts and then to layoffs, the decline has only
In contrast to the way things are going in the outside world, our print newspaper has been growing steadily since I arrived. The quality of the articles, the physical size of the paper, and the number of issuses per year have all increased. The traditional journalism skills the students learn while producing the print paper translate well into academic studies, but the end result is that they’re being prepared for the jobs that are disappearing as journalism continues to move online.
That’s not to say that students aren’t exposed to new media. They blog in every one of my English/journalism classes, we’ve had students interning with web CMS and video production, and I teach at least the basics of Flash. But so far, each time I have presented students with the opportunity to expand either the print or the online publication, the momentum has ended up favoring the print side.
I’m hoping to be more active in the online paper this fall, tying more class assignments into the technical and conceptual work that goes into maintaining the online paper, so that the small online staff can focus on innovation and quality improvement, rather than simply duplicating the print paper online.
New media skills continue to be in demand, there’s a strong market for editors and technical writers, and journalism is not disappearing. I’m hoping this fall to make the Setonian Online more central to the students’ perception of what counts as valuable professional development.
Wish me luck!