I’ve heard it said that in combat, when a soldier sees a comrade killed, “better him than me” flashes through his mind for just a moment. Then he spends the rest of his life regretting that one-second urge for self-preservation.
What’s happening to the newspaper biz is nothing like a battlefield … people will walk away with their friends and body parts intact. Some are losing jobs but they are not losing their ability to earn a living.
Still, I can identify with better-he-than-me guilt. Today the Rocky Mountain News publishes its last edition. My employer, who also publishes the surviving Denver Post, will be in much better shape financially, and by extension my paper’s prospects have improved. So my job is probably 3.763 percent more secure than it was yesterday. I don’t feel the least bit good about it.
The Rocky paid good union wages to its newsroom of 230 or so. A few of the paper’s stars got hired on by the Post but the rest are in deep doo-doo, economically. There are no other newsroom jobs anywhere in the country that pay the kind of wages they earned at the Rocky. Really, none.
I figure they’ll do OK … getting a paper out every day requires resourcefulness that’s always in demand (except, perhaps, now). The economy will turn around eventually, though minus a few more newspapers.
I’ve been expecting this day for 15 years. I remember thinking in about 1995 that newspapers had about five years till Internet broadband rendered them obsolete. Here we are nine years later and I’m still working for one.
But my illusions are gone. The end is no longer near. It’s here.
What dies with the Rocky is the age of big-city newspapers that matter. Papers of some sort will probably always be around, but they won’t be able to attract big-time talent until they can offer something better than more work for less pay. Maybe in a generation, after all the trapped-in-the-old-era farts like yours truly have been shunted aside by new blood, young newsies will be content to earn their stripes on starvation pay like cub reporters always had to do in previous golden ages of newspaper journalism. It’ll probably be good for the craft.
It’s not much consolation to the folks in Denver, I realize, but endings always lead to beginnings. Something newer, cooler, smarter, etc. will come of all this in a few years. And if it doesn’t I will still have successfully delayed getting a real job until I had to.