So once a week or so, I go to a local eatery for breakfast. It’s more of an excuse to get out of the house since there’s more than enough in the way of food at home. But this is a fairly popular location and it’s frequented by a number of friends and neighbors. Even without making a meal date, you never know who you’ll run into.
Today it was a fellow journalist — let’s call him H. — who used to work for a major newspaper. Our kids went through the school system together and we used to run into each other from time to time, although I wouldn’t classify our relationship as “close friends.”
H. was with someone else when I sat down at an adjoining table. We greeted each other and went about our respective business, he with his companion and me with the Times, reading the items I blathered on about in the previous entry.
After his friend left, I asked what was doing and he joined me at my table for another 20 minutes of so as we lamented the state of the media business. He’s a few years older than me and seems content to slide into retirement; the desire to travel across the world to cover a story no longer excites him, which is understandable after so many years. He’s currently teaching and working on other projects; it doesn’t look like he’s in any great hurry to jump back into the workforce full-time.
We spoke about what has befallen my former employer as well as the local community weekly. Takeovers are all the rage, but the companies that are doing the taking over don’t appear so interested in continuing the work that had come before. H. complained that our local weekly no longer covered local news, content to report on a wider geographic area that might have catchier topics. How stupid was the current management, he asked. Of course, they’re worried about making money, so they fired a much of staff when they took over. He suggested that had they put in a bit more effort, they would have know that readers want their local stuff, they want to see their kids’ names in the paper on the sports pages. And they’d be willing to pay more for a subscription for that pleasure, enough to keep the staffers in place probably.
I hear the same thing about my former paper; where is the reporting about local events? They don’t want to read about what’s happening out of the catchment area; they can find that out elsewhere.
This is the barrier I come across when scouring the job boards: fewer opportunities to really write and much more for creating catchy headlines and concentrate on SEO (search engine optimization) keywords that will generate clicks and serve as flypaper to keep eyes on a page longer.
Adapt or perish. But who is willing to take a chance?