Atlas shuddered

For years, Editor & Publisher was a leading forum for discussing the state of journalism and media in general. For years it published a popular repository of jobs for reporters, copy editors, photographers, graphic artists and so on. Well. As it and other media watchers have been following the agonizing decline of traditional media, E&P itself has now slipped into that vortex. And now it is gone. A statement from Mark Fitzgerald and Jennifer Saba :

“After years of covering the death of newspapers, we here at Fitz & Jen got to experience it first-hand this morning. The Nielsen Company has made the decision to cease operations of Editor & Publisher (E&P) in its 125th year.”

Bnet media analyst and general media guru David Weir was tipped off to the death of E&P by a fellow Bnetter.

The usual suspects have been rounded up: plummeting circulation, loss of advertising revenue, competition from ever-expanding media outlets (Internet! They’re giving it away!), failure to respond to changing market conditions, etc.

Editorial cartoonist Steve Greenberg summed it up thusly:

“America is all-too-quickly heading toward an era quite possibly without daily print newspapers. but it’s very sad to see that its leading industry journal — the watchdog’s watchdog — is about to be put to sleep.”

But a cartoon Greenberg penned more than a decade ago, pictured here, succinctly tells the tale of newspapers’ struggles to recapture readers (a quaint holdover from our ink-stained days).

And it’s not as if newspapers haven’t tried to adapt. But numerous forces conspired against them (including their own people at times).

Example:  Waaay back around 2000, The Akron Beacon Journal had decided to create a new position: e-journalist. I was interested. The e-journalist would be dedicated to the Web product (Ohio.com) and would use all the tools available:  old-fashioned writing, audio, video, photography. There were Guild issues to get past: Typically photogs were photogs, reporters were reporters and copy editors were gruff-but-lovable (sometimes) wordsmiths, and rarely did jobs cross over.  That hurdle appeared to have been cleared. Then the budget cuts came. The Wall Street tail wagged the corporate dog.  And that was the end of that. Except that staffers, some quite reluctantly at first, began to regularly contribute blogs, video, extra online photos and so on.

But then the economy tanked, the paper’s biggest advertisers cut back further, and online revenue still doesn’t come close to matching past print revenues. Ad lineage continues to drop, news hole continues to shrink and the ranks of “former” journalists swell.

Is it too late to save the printed product? Is it worth saving? (Short answers: Maybe. And yes.)

Time will tell.

One thing I do know, having experienced some of this firsthand:  More and more journalists are joining the former middle class that increasingly finds itself slipping into a lower socioeconomic rung, perhaps permanently. Or, at the very least, it’s going to take a long time to recover. There are only so many jobs out there and the competition is fierce. How many bloggers does the world need (he wrote, blithely unaware of his own irrelevance)? And who will feed them?

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