Meagan McGinnes, 22, senior, Ithaca (N.Y.) College
McGinnes is a journalism major with minors in politics and environmental studies. She has held internships at the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, the ABC affiliate station in Boston (WCVB) and the Ithaca Journal. McGinnes was president of the Ithaca College chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2012 when they won “Chapter of the Year.”
“What do you hope to do after graduation?”
“I want to be a journalist.”
“But isn’t the newspaper industry dying?”
This is a conversation every journalism student has participated in at some point. Lists like this year’s Career Cast annual best/worst job list that ranked newspaper reporter as 199 out of 200 occupations does not help fight these preconceived notions.
The newspaper industry is not dying; it is simply in the process of changing mediums. However, my generation is not an era that has had to pay for online news, nor will we ever really want to pay for something we have always received for free. A journalist had to create that content and should be paid for that content. Though the online medium is growing in profitability, even at its peak online media will never be as financially profitable as print’s advertising abundance.
Even still, this does not make journalism one of the worst jobs because it’s more than a job; it’s a lifestyle. A choice to give voice to the voiceless. The way we produce and consume news is smart, it’s new and it’s emotional. Multimedia journalism is at the forefront with not only videos and visuals to accompany articles, but also interactive graphics and even virtual reality. This raises the bar for the quality of news and storytelling that is being created among publications.
Journalism will be at the top of the list next year. We are on the verge of an innovative breakthrough, revolutionizing a creative and profitable business model for this adventurous field. There is always something to learn for reporters, some of the most passionate people I have ever met. There will always be a story to tell and there will always be a new way to tell it.
Robert Moore, 53, editor, El Paso (Texas) Times
Moore has been editor of the El Paso Times and vice president of news for the Texas-New Mexico Newspaper Partnership since October 2011. He previously served as executive editor of the Fort Collins Coloradoan from 2005-2011, and in various editing roles at the El Paso Times from 1986-2005. His first daily newspaper job was at the Colorado Springs Sun from 1983-86.
I wouldn’t get too caught up in these kinds of ratings. Truth is, a newspaper reporter career isn’t for everyone. At a recent panel discussion, someone asked me what I would tell someone who was unsure if he or she wanted to get into newspapers. I replied that if you’re not sure, you probably shouldn’t pursue a newspaper career.
But for those with a passion for telling good stories and helping communities improve, a newspaper is a great place to do that work. Newspapers have not innovated as rapidly as we should, but at the community level we’ve done a lot better job than our brethren in television. Newspapers have rapidly expanded their storytelling capabilities to include video, slide shows, audio, data and other techniques. At most communities across the country, other media have not adapted as quickly.
To make newspapers more attractive to good journalists, we’re going to have to do something about stagnating wages. Many journalists haven’t seen raises in close to a decade; many have seen their pay cut. As the economy has improved, we’ve lost too many of our best people to other industries because we haven’t made the investment of a relatively small amount of dollars. We have to fix that. We have to make tough decisions like not filling vacancies and using that money to reward top performers.
Good newspapers still have tremendous influence in their communities. Our work still has impact, and we make our communities better every day. If you want to make that sort of difference, a newspaper is a great place to be. But newspapers will need to address compensation quickly to make us more attractive.