Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why Young People Don't Read Newspapers But Want to Work For One

Jack Telfer of the Midland Daily News is surprised that young journalists want to work in the newspaper industry.

"If many young people are no longer reading newspapers, why are so many applying for jobs in the newspaper industry?" he asks, noting that his paper in Michigan has received dozens of applications from rookie journalists. "Evidently these young people believe there is some type of future in the newspaper industry. So do I."

Wel, Mr. Telfer, that's simple: newspaper mastheads still hold influence, and what a newspaper is today is not what a newspaper was yesterday.

To the young journalist, a newspaper isn't the paper product. It's the "disseminator" of information. It's a source. The paper aspect is but one facet of what the "newspaper industry" is all about.

"Then why don't young people read newspapers?" you might ask. Well, they do - if a hypothetical "newspaper.com" can be filed under "newspaper," too.

Ask those Central Michigan University students where they get their news. I guarantee that maybe 10 percent of students have picked up a newspaper for their own purposes in the last year.

So no, Mr. Telfer, we don't read newspapers - but we read the news. A lot of it. And we don't want to apply for newspaper jobs. We want to apply for news jobs. In this case, a news that is read and not heard.

But here's what I would like to know: as an employer, is a newspaper boss looking for a "newspaper" kid or a "news" kid? Is everyone looking ahead as much as you, Jack? I sure hope so. Because those crazy suggestions - "hey, let's start an obituaries blog" or "hey, let's start a graduations slideshow" or "hey, let's give David Carr a camcorder and send him into Times Square" - might be what saves the "news" from the "newspaper."

So tell me, Jack - what do guys like you, who are the products of a different method of news yet acknowledge a change in the tide, want from the young journalist? Do you want those "slick, magazine-style products" or simple enthusiasm and belief?

Our two generations, it seems, are still working out how to figure each other out. I, for one, don't think things are as surprising as they seem. As long as we're in step, the march couldn't be all that bad.

1 comment:

FIMH said...

An interesting observation however I find a different story amongst my peers. we're all journalism students in london, all aiming for our byline in the nationals and its weekend siblings and yes- we all buy the daily newspaper (Guardian being the preferred choice)...It is sad, though, as it seems that print is a dying art. My generation is too wrapped up in Big Brother and Facebook to notice this erroding platform.