Leading up to the closure of the Rocky Mountain News in 2009, the mantra among corporate executives engaged in cost cutting was for journalists to “Work harder, not smarter” or “Do more with less.” But by that time, with a newsroom basically cut in half, the reality was “Doing less with less, and charging customers more.”
Nearly 10 years later, the continued death by a thousand cuts across the journalism world have continued, and we are at a tipping point. On Monday, The Chicago Sun-Times left its front page blank in a plea for subscribers in an effort to “protect the long-term survival” of its newsroom.
The Denver Post made a similar plea earlier this month, after one-third of its staff were laid off, demanding that its owners sell the newspaper. Hard-working Daily Camera reporter Alex Burness tweeted this week: “The stories being told now about the Post could be told about all of these newsrooms, just on different scales. National media reporters would do well to check out what’s happened in Boulder, Canon City, Longmont, Loveland, Sterling, Julesburg, Lamar, Broomfield, Brush.”
What’s Next for Journalism?
There’s the non-profit model, or the pay-wall model for digital news or the billionaire-backed model, or any combination of all three. As the shakedown continues, people are more and more realizing what the world looks like without the print media. There are city council meetings that aren’t being covered, feature stories that define the fabric of communities that aren’t being shared and checks and balances on our democratic way of life that aren’t being made.
As we grapple with this change, I have become keenly aware that in most instances news coverage originates from the print media. And the news is a commodity and just like anything else of value, you have to pay for it. The biggest question now is whether our news-obsessed culture will realize this as well.