How dispiriting is the Philly media beat? When Joel Mathis asked Steve Volk what he’s learned in 11 years of covering The Inquirer and the Daily News, Volk replied: “That I don’t want to cover the media anymore, at least not local media in Philly. It’s 11 years of watching the bridge of the Enterprise shake while the cast runs from one side of the screen of the other.”
Sometimes the demands of narrative make you seem impervious to the human cost of what’s going on there. And I’m not impervious. These are sort of would-be friends and colleagues, you know what I mean? I’ve been constantly covering them losing their jobs and wondering what’s next. I’m tired of marching that same beat.
I think what I’ve learned is: Experimentation is really hard. I think what’s necessary more than ever in papers is to experiment and try things to see what’ll bring more readers, more eyes and more subscribers. I think it’s been hard for people to let go of what they know and try something new. So I think there’s been this paralysis of people trying to hang on to whatever reader base they might retain, a fear of change because it might involve slipping ever farther. I feel for them, but I feel what’s needed now is a spirit of experimentation, owners who get along and are willing to lose some money in the short term by trying to make money in the long term.
Philadelphia magazine published Volk’s feature, “The Fight for the Future of Philadelphia’s Newspapers,” on Jan. 30.