Another Step Toward the New News

My friend Bill Kovarik and I are working on a class for the January, 2019, version of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference (here) at Hollins University on the future of work in writing.

Today, comes this explanation of why the New York Daily News–one of the nation’s biggest remaining papers–will operate with a news staff of 40: “The decisions being announced today reflect the realities of our business and the need to adapt to an ever-changing media environment. They are not a reflection on the significant talent that is leaving today. Let there be no doubt: these colleagues are highly valued and will be missed.” That was the explanation staffers got for the 50 percent cut in a news positions at a paper where 250 newsies worked a few years to the size of a regional daily, like The Roanoke Times, for example.

The truth is hard to digest, but a newspaper is a delivery system, not news itself. So when the Tronc execs write that the layoffs “reflect the realities of our business and the need to adapt to an ever-changing media environment,” they’re on the money. I don’t see this as a ruthless culling of talent in order to remain profitable. The NYDN will continue to operate with more of an online presence (it hopes), as will so many other publications.

The technology is there, so newspapers–especially–will have to finally face that fact. Magazines, for now, have that glossy thing going for them, which seems to be appealing to many readers and certainly looks better in a scrap book than a newspaper clipping. For the reader, the magazine’s looks-before-information concentration, has also had its selling point. The internet has made us all more visual, less interested in long, investigative pieces.

That, of course, is not good for our form of government (which is dramatically changing daily), but it’s all the people’s choice. And my chosen profession is worse off for it. So are you.

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