Most people tend to be really excited to see their name in print, which is why it confused others when I just shrugged if I saw my byline in a newspaper. When I was an intern at the Santa Barbara Independent five years ago, my name (finally) appeared one week in the news section with the other writers’. My mother framed the page of the paper.
She was probably never going to frame another byline of mine again, but my mother could be out of luck if David Carr is to be believed. And why wouldn’t we believe him.
Carr, who writes for the The New York Times, wrote July 9 that the newspaper industry is cracking everywhere and headed for a meltdown – for real, this time. Papers are losing it, running old stories on the front pages, or posting fake bylines on websites. The cuts at newspapers have been so deep that problems are bleeding into the daily product. Carr also said most big paper companies are swamped with debt, which means more Chapter 11 bankruptcies are on the horizon.
None of that is good news for recent college graduates, like myself, looking for jobs. But that’s OK, because I’ve moved beyond the belief that I have to work at a newspaper to somehow solidify my name as a journalist. Great writers and reporters have their work in print and online, even on The Huffington Post. Some of my friends don’t feel the way I do right now, but I always ask: “Do you really want to work for a bankrupt company?”
Not that online-only news firms aren’t operating on shoestring budgets and keep staff writers working 14-hour days. Online is the future, but partly because someone figured out how expensive it is to print a newspaper. And just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s profitable. Patch is still on Jim Romenesko’s death watch, and for good reason.
I spend so much time sharing my work on the Internet that I hardly look at a story of mine that appears in print. I like to see people reading my stories at a coffee shop in the same way I like to look at web analytics. But these days, my byline on the front of a paper achieves the same feeling for me as my story on the top of a website.
It’s not that I’ve gone all cold on the print product, but those of us sitting on student loans and competing with thousands of others for employment at a local Starbucks can’t wait for the newspaper industry to reinvent itself. It probably can’t wait, either.
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