Editorial | Journalism can’t die, but it is slimming down


It’s a familiar and disheartening statement to many young journalists: Journalism is a dying profession.

Constantly, cynics spit this at fledgling reporters and writers. They hope to undermine our resolve, and, ultimately, drive us into the open arms of science, technology, engineering or math. “STEM is the future,” they regurgitate, hearing it from whichever uninspired old grouch said it first. “Journalism is in the past.”

And, you know, they’re a tiny bit right.

Newsrooms all over the country have cut their staffs dramatically. Not even a year ago, the New York Daily News let go of nearly half its news staff.

Around the same time, the newsroom of the Chicago Tribune went through another employment slash.

A bit farther back, in July 2017, The New York Times made significant cuts to its copy editing desk for the sake of streamlining the editing process.

“We are living in a strange time when routine copy-editing duties such as fact checking, reviewing sources, correcting misleading or inaccurate information, clarifying language and, yes, fixing spelling and grammar mistakes in news covfefe are suddenly matters of public discourse,” wrote the copy staff.

According to the Pew Research Center, the greatest decline in newsroom staff comes from newspapers. From 2008 to 2017, newspapers have hemorrhaged nearly 45 percent of their employees. Overall, in the same time period, jobs in news have declined by 23 percent.    

While definitely potentially in danger, journalism isn’t “dying.”

“Dying” implies eventual nonexistence, but journalism won’t ever fully die out. News is too integral a part of society to fully disappear. Provisions for its existence are even written into the Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” This is the First Amendment to the Constitution. How many other professions are protected this way?

And, it’s the First Amendment. The first one. The founders of this nation recognized the vital importance of protected journalism to any legitimate government for the people, by the people, and so they made this protection their first priority.

On top of this, there has been a marked change in types of news jobs. In 2008, 62 percent of all jobs in journalism were held by newspapers. By 2017, jobs at newspapers made up 45 percent of the overall jobs in the field. This shift is explained by the increase in the proportion of jobs at news stations from 25 percent in 2008 to 33 percent by 2017, and the increase in the proportion of digital news careers from 6 to 15 percent in the same time period.   

So “dying” isn’t the right word; it’s more like “slimming down.” While this is not the ideal situation, we can work with “slimming down.” Often, “slimming down” comes with positive implications like becoming skinnier or getting into shape.

Thus, perhaps it’s for the best the field of journalism is shrinking. If there are fewer spots, newspapers find themselves with far more applicants than they could possibly hire, forcing the field to become more competitive. This ensures only the best people will stay on the job; only the boldest, most daring reporters; only the most ambitious journalists; only the servants most dedicated to the truth.

Perhaps this is a healthy cleanse. Maybe this is a much-needed purge of newsrooms that will leave our country with better, stronger truth-seekers.