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With revenues dropping, Newsweek announced recently that their Dec. 31 print issue would be their last as the company makes the shift to online only. The Globe and Mail also recently put their content behind a paywall (again) — a ploy that the New York Times and others have tried and failed to capitalize on. Sun Media laid off 500 more employees.
At times like this I wonder why I didn't go into underwater welding or some other field where there's long-term job security.
Some will argue that what journalists — and especially print reporters — do is necessary for democracy, but the reality is that the majority of us work for private, for-profit publications that stand or fall on their own. It has to be this way, as it's the only way to stay independent from government spin and corporate influence. Unlike the CBC, BBC, PBS and a handful of other outlets, not many of us have any guaranteed funding.
Newspapers are struggling to stay above water in this digital shift that is destroying, or has destroyed, so many once viable industries: music stores, movie rental stores, book stores, movie theatres, and more. We are the whip and buggy makers of our time watching the first cars drive by, and the free market will ultimately decide what lives and dies by how you divert your attention and spend money. When newspapers are closing offices and laying off staff, and institutions like Newsweek are abandoning a medium they helped to create, you know times are tough.
And there's not much anyone can do about it. You could turn off Google News and the Huffington Post, stop using Craiglist and Kijiji, subscribe to paper papers and online media like The Globe and Mail, stop fast forwarding through the commercials on the shows you've PVRed and click on the odd online ad on websites that generate content. And if you go to a website that's republishing a story from somewhere, then you should click on the link to the original — those links add up and create more online advertising revenues for the actual producers of the content. And to everyone who still picks up Pique and other print papers, thank-you — you make all of this possible.
But while these ideas are nice, they're not very realistic in the long term. Who knows? Maybe journalism will survive, and reporters like myself will continue to get paid for what we do. In the meantime, good luck Newsweek, the Globe and NYT — we're rooting for you.