'Newspapers killed newspapers,' says reporter who quit the business

Sticky Valentines | Slate
Allyson Bird autopsies the business she left: "I don’t think the Internet killed newspapers," she writes. "Newspapers killed newspapers."

The corporate folks who manage newspapers tried to comply with the whims of a thankless audience with a microscopic attention span. And newspaper staffers tried to comply with the demands of a thankless establishment that often didn’t even read their work. Everyone lost.

Now a writer for a hospital's fundraising department, Bird remembers the "adrenaline rush" of breaking news but doesn't miss the exhaustion:

You get called out of a sound sleep to drive out to a crime scene and try to talk with surviving relatives. You wake up at 3 a.m. in a cold sweat, realizing you’ve misspelled a city councilman’s name. You spend nights and weekends chipping away at the enterprise stories that you never have time to write on the clock.

Oh, and the crummy pay: "I quit my newspaper job at 28, making less money than earned when I was 22."

Matt Yglesias argues that the journalism business has never been better -- for readers. "[A]ny individual journalist working today can produce much more than our predecessors could in 1978," he writes.

To the extent that the industry is suffering, it’s suffering from a crisis of productivity.

For people trying to make a living in journalism, the problems are real enough. But from a social viewpoint, these are excellent problems to have.

Related: How the Boston Phoenix Kept Its Readers But Lost Its Advertisers (PBS MediaShift) | Betting on Punditry (Branch)

Previously: Journalists land at Cisco, other brands as ‘corporate reporters’ | Reporter who created ‘We Are Journalists’ Tumblr takes PR job | Why journalists make the best PR pros | Why journalists don’t always make the best PR pros

Correction: This post misspelled Bird's last name in one instance.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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