Journalists are under siege today. In many countries around the world, journalists risk and sometimes lose their lives in the line of duty. Here at home, the threat isn’t violence against their person, but a failure of the business model that for decades supported them rather handsomely.
The number of full-time U.S. daily newspaper journalists has plunged to 36,700, according to the American Society of News Editors, down from around 55,000 before the 2008 economic downturn and the acceleration of an industry-wide print advertising and circulation decline.
This week we learned that advertising columnist at The New York Times, Stuart Elliott, agreed to take a generous buyout offer from “The Gray Lady” and bow out.
David Griner of Adweek wrote: “For those in the advertising world, Elliott’s departure might be the most stunning. He is widely considered the most influential advertising journalist in the U.S. and has guided the newspaper’s coverage of the ad industry for decades.”
With Lewis Lazare long gone from the Chicago Sun Times and now Elliott out, there are now zero reporters working the ad industry beat full time at a major newspaper in this country.
Meanwhile, reporters of all stripes struggle to make ends meet. See the following Tweet:
I have been asked by a fairly well-known publication to write 1500-word essay on labor exploitation for $50. Guess they want autobiography.
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) December 6, 2014
Given the marketplace reality for journalists today, the most shocking media news of the week is the massive walkout staged by editors at The New Republic.
According to Ad Age, the magazine has lost at least 55 people from its masthead — a mix of fulltime employees and contributing editors — since Thursday. TNR will not publish its next issue on Dec. 15.
In a memo to staff on Thursday, The New Republic CEO Guy Vidra, said the magazine was replacing its editor, moving its headquarters to New York from Washington D.C. and cutting the number of issues in half to 10 starting in 2015.
“We are re-imagining The New Republic as a vertically integrated digital media company,” Mr. Vidra said in his memo Thursday.
This, of course, caused the group of old school media elites at TNR to be utterly outraged. That their outrage would also cause them to terminate employment at a time when there is little opportunity to go elsewhere as a journalist is a testament to the strength of their beliefs, and to the deep distaste journalists have for Silicon Valley’s version of “new media.”