Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

The lost generations of US journalists

A University of Kansas professor has come out with a new book, Journalism’s Lost Generation: The Un-Doing of U.S. Newspaper Newsrooms, to explore the effects of the 10-year demolition project in American newsrooms.

Scott Reinardy spoke with Deron Lee of Columbia Journalism Review. Some excerpts of the interview follow.

From CJR (“What a Kansas professor learned after interviewing a ‘lost generation’ of journalists“):

What did your surveys and interviews with newspaper journalists tell you about the state of morale in the newsroom?

I was on sabbatical in 2014 and I spent time in a number of newsrooms conducting interviews. Going into these newsrooms was enlightening, to say the least.

I don’t use this word lightly, but I would call it an organizational depression that’s occurring. There has been so much loss in those newsrooms. Journalists don’t necessarily just lose jobs, they lose careers and some real self-identity.

I had many journalists who broke down and cried, who were so genuinely upset about what had happened to the profession they loved so dearly. It was really troubling.

So I don’t have a statistical measurement for morale, but when you start walking into these newsrooms and talking to people who dedicated 20 years or 25 years or 30 years of their life to not only the profession but maybe even this individual newspaper, it was pretty telling to see how upset they were at what had occurred to their beloved industry.

Who makes up this “lost generation” that you write about in your book?

I think at the very least there are three “lost” generations. One are certainly those who lost their job and perhaps their profession in the layoffs and the cuts. The second, I think, are the older journalists. The culture has changed so drastically and the workload—the way newspapers cut their staff but continue to try to produce at the same rate they previously had. And then adding in the technology: “We want you to shoot videos or take photos or post online.” And the social media aspects: “You’ve got to tweet X amount per day, you have to blog X amount.” That culture has changed dramatically, so the older generation is feeling, certainly, some loss.

And then the younger generation is coming in and not really sure of the direction or the culture of the newspaper; they’re trying to figure it out. They come in with different perspectives. They can handle the multimedia and the social media, but then we have to talk about quality and depth of reporting. Are they just being driven to get more clicks and not worried about doing that second or third or fourth interview to make the content better? I’m not sure. And I’m not sure that generation—in talking with people—they’re not getting a lot of guidance from the older generation because the older generation is just too darned busy to instill some of the qualities and the mission that had previously been established.

So you have several generations that are trying to find their ways, and it’s challenging. And you have a gap in there as well. There are journalists between 35 and 45 who are leaving the profession—primarily women. There’s a generation gap that certainly changes the dimension of what the newsroom looks like and what the news looks like, quite frankly.

Read the whole thing.

Wed, September 7 2016 » Main Page, Media