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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bay Area Newspapers: How Much Longer Until They Are Extinct?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge It's worse than you think.
  • It's worse than you think.

So you think the Bay Area's newspapers are bad now - they are only going to get worse. A new survey shows that local newspapers will continue to strip away what little staff and resources they have left.

Newspapers will get leaner, despite the fact that they have already lost half of their workforce over the last decade, including 36 percent of their reporters.

Even for journalists who have managed to hold onto a job, the picture is unusually bleak.Former middle-class news reporters are toiling away, earning poverty wages -- without health insurance, and with little prospect of finding profitable work again, according to a survey of the region's news business released Tuesday.

Though Web sites and other Internet-based media have -- to some degree --

supplanted newspapers as a source of information, they've not replaced

the printed word as the dominant employer. According to the survey, roughly

one-third of laid-off media workers said they have been either

unemployed or underemployed for more than a year. Another 2.5 percent

said they have been lacking work for more than six years.

And the gutting of newsrooms is far from over. Employers responding to the survey, which was sponsored by the Sunnyvale-based North Valley Job Training Consortium, said they expect to continue laying off workers and cutting resources moving forward.

Some bleak highlights from the report:

The vast majority of employer-survey respondents said that creative restructuring

throughout the industry will continue, and one-quarter said further contraction will occur,

including additional layoffs. That said, most respondents did not anticipate the need for

layoffs, buyouts, or early retirements at their firms in the next two years.

The report quoted journalists who claim they were barely making ends meet as the New Media sweatshops replace middle-class-salary newsrooms of yore.

According to one journalist:

"I think there are a lot of opportunities, but little pay. Many

journalists, even mid-career, are faced with low-pay employment

options, even as the opportunities to make your mark are

enormous. This puts tremendous pressure on individuals to survive

in a very expensive area of the country."

Another said:

 "Very, very difficult times right now. I am hearing about former

colleagues losing their houses. I feel lucky that I am able to keep a

roof over my head. I really wonder if I will ever have another full-time

job with benefits."

And those who haven't been laid off or suffered drastic pay cuts, are scared for their future. According to the survey:

Almost 90 percent said the changes

have affected their view of the industry, and nearly 40 percent of those who were never

dislocated are currently looking for work -- both in journalism and in other fields.

Many journalists who've lost steady work have gone to freelancing, which, even under the best economic times, is no way to survive. And Web sites, which had planted some hope of  transforming  the news business rather than eliminating it, tend to compensate journalists with "exposure" rather than money.

As many as 70 percent of dislocated journalists are currently freelancing, but 85 percent

of those are "not really making it" financially, according to one executive interview.

Freelancers face a larger supply of unemployed and underemployed journalists flooding

the market. Meanwhile, much of the demand is from Web sites and other new-media

ventures that are unable or unwilling to provide reasonable compensation.


Freelancing isn't merely economic poison for practitioners, the report said. The shift to a freelancing-based economy could also constitute a public health threat. In the current market, freelancing fosters such an unhealthy lifestyle that it can rightfully be considered the prelude to a medical crisis.

In addition to income challenges, a Pacific Media Workers study found that many

freelancers struggle with feelings of isolation, lack of adequate health insurance, and

dated skills, as well as a lack of infrastructure -- tech support, tax withholding, legal

protection -- they enjoyed while working as employees.

So there you have it, New Media Cheerleaders -- everything you could have possibly wanted:

click to enlarge Actual Screen Capture of Huffington Post Homepage, The Same Day a Survey Showed Bay Area Newspaper Employment Down By Half
  • Actual Screen Capture of Huffington Post Homepage, The Same Day a Survey Showed Bay Area Newspaper Employment Down By Half


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Matt Smith

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