Bay Area Newspapers: How Much Longer Until They Are Extinct?
|It's worse than you think.|
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:
And those who haven't been laid off or suffered drastic pay cuts, are scared for their future. According to the survey:
"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."
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.
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.
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:
|Actual Screen Capture of Huffington Post Homepage, The Same Day a Survey Showed Bay Area Newspaper Employment Down By Half|