The death of newspaper reporters and editors

For a number of years, I was a newspaper reporter. I started as a sportswriter and moved through the “cops and courts” beat and eventually became a political reporter, covering the legislature, local government and elections. I enjoyed the job because every day was different and you got to experience and learn about a lot of things. But I see by the local daily that the newspaper reporter is dead.

Cory and others have looked more closely at the latest round of Gannett layoffs, non-renewals, “retirements” or whatever you want to call them, in the local daily’s newsroom. One of the more ironic things — and evidence that money is more important than quality — is Cory noting that although it just got rid of some very experienced and excellent reporters, the daily had ads out seeking new ones. Cub reporters, of course, can be paid a lot less than someone who knows what they’re doing.

But that isn’t the death I’m talking about. The local daily’s recent moves also demonstrate that social media and related schlock have made “reporters” and “editors,” i.e., journalists, irrelevant.

  • One senior editor at the paper is now a “content strategist” while another and the assistant news editor are something called a “content coach.” Not only does the latter senior editor “coach” content, she is also responsible for “storytelling.”
  • A photographer is the “consumer experience director.” (The newspaper ought to be ashamed just by how it changed its job titles from English to buzzwords.
  • A business reporter and editor is now also an “audience analyst.”
  • The new sports editor isn’t the sports editor; he’s the “lead sports producer.”
  • The position I used to call managing editor is now apparently “engagement editor.”

This may come off as simply grumpy old man/reporter stuff. After all, I still much prefer the dead tree version of a newspaper and think Facebook, Twitter, etc., aren’t places to get the news you can trust. But back in the day content wasn’t created or massaged by strategists, experience directors or audience anlysts. The difference is seen in the title. You were a reporter and that was your job — to report the news.

It may be a new world for newspapers but changes like this makes me wonder if actual news reporting also is a victim.

I don’t so much mind that newspapers are dying — it’s watching them commit suicide that pisses me off.

Molly Ivins, March 23, 2006

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