By paulgillin | September 22, 2007 - 5:40 am - Posted in Fake News

Mark Glaser and Nicholas Carr have been mixing it up over the outlook for the newspaper industry and both have interesting cases to make.

In a piece on MediaShift, Glaser argues that journalism jobs aren’t going away so much as being redirected into online outlets. He cites numerous sources claiming that online reporting and production jobs are plentiful and growing. And he offers examples of newspapers that have cut staff in print while hiring online.

Carr, who’s a bit of a professional skeptic, pokes holes in Glaser’s thesis. He notes that Glaser doesn’t cite many actual numbers in his reporting (which is true) and cites many numbers of his own, including damning Bureau of Labor Statistics figures that show that employment is falling in both print and online media.

Glaser responds that it’s really, really difficult to find accurate numbers about media employment trends. He says the coverage is all focused on the bad news while the bright spots in journalism employment – including a stable-to-growing picture at smaller newspapers – is ignored. And he notes that overall job losses in newspapers are still under 10% in the last decade.

Both authors make valid points. Where I part company with Glaser is over his assertion that newspapers need to do a better job of “re-skilling” their print veterans. In my experience, the ink-stained wretches of print journalism are a notoriously stubborn lot, and few of them are willing to make the changes that are necessary to practice their craft online. Digital journalism requires a completely different approach to reporting and production. It’s unrealistic to think that a newspaper is going to wait for $100,000-a-year veteran reporter to “get it” when they can find eager young journalists who are willing to do the job for a fraction of the cost.

There’s no question that the future of newspapers is online, but the economics of that business demands that they make a wrenching transition from a high-dollar cost structure to a much smaller business. This will involve lots of layoffs, particularly of veterans. Many of these people are well-connected in the media world, and there troubles will continue to generate extensive coverage.

There will be lots of journalism jobs in the digital-media world of the future, but I expect that not many of them will be filled by the people who today are putting ink on dead trees.



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