Meagan McGinnes 22, senior, Ithaca (N.Y.) College
According to this year’s Career Cast annual best/worst job list, newspaper reporter is ranked 199 out of 200 occupations. How would you get newspaper reporter to be number one for next year’s list?  

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.

Comments

Stop Calling them Newspapers

Kent Kirschner | Thursday, June 12, 2014

First, before I begin, I would call 'abuse' for the comment above mine by John Linn. "Make them write what people want to read about not what they want people to hear....." That is a recipe for an even more expedient demise. Part of the reason people are no longer tuning in is because a lot of the fight and fun has been sacrificed for so many different reasons in recent years. What journalists should do is turn on the gas and go for broke any more. Be authoritative. Write what we should know about and OWN IT. Make us want to read more about it. Fact of the matter is that most of us assume that there is way more dirt in our backyards that can and should be slung and we're eager to hear about it. Reality shows have provided a placebo in the absence of great, juicy, local reporting.
But more to the point of my headline. Journalism is among the most esteemed careers in our global community. Journalists and doctors I would argue are the most valuable professionals on the planet. One group helps to cure us from ills while the other hopes to ensure that the ills don't overcome us.
The dramatic fall from grace has nothing to do with the career itself, but rather the perspective our culture has on what is valuable and our fascination with consumption. If a reporter's average salary was in the mid six figures it would rank one or two. And so the question of how to get "reporter to #1 next year" isn't about the role but rather about the industry which supports the role. And that answer is simple, specifically for the newspaper reporter: Newspapers are dead, stop saying the word.
From now on, lets call what were formerly newspapers in any given community THE BRAIN of the town. Houston's Brain. Tampa's Brain. Richmond's Brain. That's number 1. Tell everyone in the building they don't work for a newspaper, a website, a publisher..........none of that. Tell them they work for the brain of the community.
And what does the 'brain' do? It processes and spits out information for the body (your audiences) to be able to function through decision making. What does this mean? It means that a business reporter no longer writes for the business page. The business reporter now writes for: a local directory of businesses (online, mobile, print), an annual guide to financial planning (online, mobile, print), the local chamber of commerce (member info resources), the local economic development council and on and on. Every conceivable piece of information related to local business that a 3rd party may be seeking should be produced, packaged and distributed by the local brain. Same with local lifestyle, local politics, and local sports. The local high school football program? Written, laid out and monetized by the 'local brain' (with the help of HS student interns by the way!) Local "ESPN" style sports website/mobile companion/scouting reports? Data sold to national scouting services...............all from the brain.
The problem with the industry as I see it is that while their content remains the most vital and valuable in the community, their distribution dominance has shrunk to such a degree that its impossible to see a bright future. And so there is now more BADDDDDD content production than ever because of the demand created by so many distribution channels and the really valuable producers can't make enough money because their 'manager' hasn't effectively sold their output. The solution is to take that content and those resources and put them in front of every content channel that exists in a local market and monetize 10x times more than they are today.

Publisher

Keith Foutz | Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I would suggest the following;
First, our industry has to do a better job of sharing our vision, that newspapers are not dying, we're eveolving utilizing both the print and the digital platforms to reinforce our stability.
Secondly, this specific position requires a thorough understanding of what the job entails, which may differ substantially from what they either thought or learned during the education process. From understanding and adhering that this position has an ethics acceptability to accountability associated within the tasks and responsibilities assigned or as outlined by a job description.
Thirdly, newspapers need to invest back into our equipment as well as our people.
From being able to have equipment that allows reporting "live" from an event or scene to compensation that justifies the tasks assigned, combined with skill set and experience.
Finally, create a culture within the department and the company that is collabartive. We need to share with individuals the good, the bad and the ugly with being candid and honest. We need to enjoy what we chose to do for a living, take pride in our work and have fun.
By implementing/practicing those four steps, the perception of journalism being a dying position within a dying industry would slowly begin to change.

pres. sun coast sales inc

john linn | Wednesday, June 11, 2014

1st hire people on a performance based plan and pay the well....second do not allow them to put their own personal spin on anything....make them write what people want to read about not what they want people to hear.....and finally put no cap on yearly earnings with plenty of incentives and bonuses....and hold them accountable by asking for reader feedback not to the reporters but to the people who they work for......and then if they do not produce what and when they should...hire someone who really wants to do a good job and does so because they can make $100k per year if they do.....

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