The “Death” of Newspapers: 15 Years Later

About 15 years ago, every man and woman who worked for a newspaper started being told by management that the Internet was the Devil; that we would all lose our jobs because of its freedom of information distribution, and that a degree in Journalism would be worth less than the paper it was printed on within a generation.

I was working for a newspaper 15 years ago, and I heard the same fear-mongering from the leadership of our chain. Only in hindsight do I realize that they weren’t really worried about the journalists they employed, but rather their own pocketbooks.

A lot of us did in fact lose our jobs in the newspaper industry as the Internet evolved. Newspaper advertising sales dropped, classified sections became obsolete, and cash cows like car dealerships and grocery stores went online to hock their wares. But what we do – journalists, writers, editors, photographers, and designers – didn’t vanish into thin air, we just evolved right along with the Internet.

If running my own freelancing business has taught me one thing, it’s that the world needs great writers and communicators now more than ever. And that realization means that my degree in Journalism and pedigree for being able to pluck a subject out of thin air and write compelling copy about it; or take someone else’s creative work and sharpen prior to publication, is liberating, exciting, and quite frankly, one of the best revelations of my professional life.

As a newspaper guy, every year had its arc for me – back-to-school, sports, festivals, city council, school board meetings, the occasional crime wave, scandal, or election, feature photos, and try to stay awake during the summer time. It was an easy gig, but ultimately a boring gig, and one that seldom did anything to spark my passion or challenge me as a professional.

Compare that to the last 12 months, in which I have:

  • Worked with a Grammy winner
  • Reviewed a cyber-securities proposal sent to the Department of Defense and the US Air Force
  • Co-written a whitepaper on the evolution of corporate intranets
  • Served as news editor for a major education news website
  • Edited a ghost story that made quite literally jump in the build-up to the reveal
  • Dived head first into the twin worlds of SAP and BI, and ended up writing stories for a magazine whose headquarters is on the other side of the world from my office.

The Internet might have sent a whole bunch of newspapers to the morgue, but it had the opposite effect on those of us who worked for them. Death? No, the Internet gave us life.

 

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