Sunday, December 28, 2008

So the blogosphere reached out and bit me in the ass. My job as a journalist was unceremoniously put on hold after I was laid off from my copy editor positiion at a daily newspaper, and the Internet played at least a partial role (if not a prominent one) in the unlucky event. People more and more are getting news free of charge on the Internet and ad revenues at dailies are falling precipitously as a result. Since ads are all about eyes on the retailers' products, services, etc., and since many eyes are no longer falling on the pages of newspapers but, rather, on computer monitors, newspapers nationwide are scrambling to figure out how to redesign their offerings to appeal to the "wired" generation and its offspring. The problem is, the lines between news and entertainment are blurring more and more because publishers don't have a clue how to package news online, and are, therefore, relying on graphic designers and computer code writers to deliver the local, state, national and world news in an eye-catching way to Internet Web sites. Without subscription revenue and only ad dollars to support newspapers, when publishers go to the Web, retailers have all the clout and are even given editorial power because of the critical financial straits newspapers are in. In national newsrooms the buzz is about Internet models that grab as many "hits" as possible in as short a time period as possible. Content is superfluous or, at best, less comprehensive. The print news model today is about short, punchy sentences that deliver within two or three paragraphs the whole story. That's the new journalistic model. The old upside-down pyramid template for articles -- the nut graf within the first three or four paragraphs and relevant details ensuing -- has devolved into as pieces with as little detail as possible. Simply put, a good Net piece should read something like "Man killed on train platform by zebra. Police intend to investigate." End of piece. Oh, one might add a name if the person is famous or a public official, or if the publication has a rural, small-town readership that might recognize a community member's name. But that's about it.
Creative writing does not come into play. The aim is as many articles in as few words as possible with as many photos and graphics as possible. Volume, not content, is what counts. If one can get 100 stories a day in 100 sentences, well that's a Net bonanza! Especially if the packaging attracts a lot of eyes and the articles are easily digested.
And so it goes.
Nevertheless, the Web is a great tool and a wondrous asset for people who're looking for quick access to information about the world they live in or the activities that they align themselves with within a given community.
It's too bad that the pain of changing the journalistic model is going to affect so many good reporters, editors and photographers. I don't know what my future holds. I don't know if I'll continue in journalism or not. I have such a sour taste after my layoff that I'm a bit shaky on that score. But life will go on. And happiness spins around and round. And I will continue to blog, though it's more for mental exercise than anything else. I don't aim to inform anyone about anything. I'm just keeping my typing skill and thought processes active. Happy New Year!


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