An insider’s view of the future of newspapers — It isn’t pretty

Now let’s see how glamourous newspaper journalism jobs look to recent J-school grads. JOHNATHON HOUSTON has some remarks. Reporter salaries are totally apt, on so many different levels.

* A lot of the column writing and handwringing on the crisis in papers comes from people who already have their gigs (and good gigs they are, too). If I have to read another Ken Auletta thumbsucker I will poke my eyes out with a dull spoon.

* Those just starting out are grateful to have jobs at all, what with the huge oversupply of j-grads, and they don’t rock the boat with a lot of enterprise — creative ideas that are by definition dangerous/unusual.

* The fact of the daily deadline diminishes the power of a lackluster story for those who face the deadlines. All the reader sees is the lackluster story, which gives them that much less reason to come back again (to a smaller and smaller paper).

* Shorter stories and smaller papers render papers less and less essential — and offer less physical engagement — for the reader.

* Writing shorter well takes more skill than you’re likely to get for reporters you can get for starting salaries in the $20,000s.

* The pyramid style — and in fact most every conventional aspect of the daily paper — was developed when the mass audience wasn’t as college-educated as they are now, or faced with the kind of competition that exists now.

My sister faced the salary conundrum when she graduated Medill. After a LOT of work scouting/interviewing, got an offer from a florist’s trade mag in the high teens (it was a while ago, but even then not a livable wage). And one from a type/design shop for twice that, which would allow her to, you know, buy groceries and pay rent in Chicago. Guess which she took.

I had a theory once that one of the reasons Silicon Alley and the dot com boom happened in the ’90s in NYC was a confluence of a lack of decent jobs in established media for the “boomer echo” generation (at least those interesting types who weren’t becoming lawyers, doctors and MBAs), combined with the simplicity of the tools involved in new media, the raw fear of investors of missing the next big thing, and the obvious paradigm-shifting implications of all the new Web stuff. They had nothing to lose and a lot to gain — and in the process created forms (of media) that were interesting to them — forms that would make no sense to a middle-manager boss.

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