Sunday, December 07, 2008

Traditional Media Continues to Shrink

Recently I was at one of my son's college football games visiting with him and his friends. In spite of our continued yelling for our side, they lost by a pretty significant margin and I had that sense that the game was over by the third quarter. So I focused more on conversation and talked to a bright and polite young man about his career future. "So, what are you planning on doing after graduation?" "A journalist," he said, quite innocently. Whenever people tell me this, I instantly want to laugh because I assume they are joking. Unfortunately, this was a very nice kid and he was ever so serious.

Being in radio and involved in a media news website, I meet young people virtually every day who are interested in journalism and are getting degrees in such. Where are their parents when they need them? Getting a degree in journalism today is like getting a degree in computer science when I went to college in the early 1980s. The only difference is that journalism majors should know better and so should their parents.

From the information I received in a recent Revolving Door Newsletter, it appears the traffic is going in one direction when it comes to media, and that is the exit door. The newsletter reports that "the axe fell at NBC Universal with 500 layoffs underway, including 30 from its sales staff. Elsewhere, CNBC laid off as many as 55 staffers and "The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch on hiatus." We also learn that "long-anticipated cuts finally came to Viacom, with 850 losing their jobs. Some 300 of those were from MTV, and top managers won't receive salary increases... Veteran CNN correspondent Miles O'Brien will leave the network, which is shuttering its science, space, and tech unit..."

In the book publishing world, Revolving Door reports numerous senior staffers at leading publications have left and "Simon & Schuster let go 35 people, including Rick Richter, president of the publishing company's children's book division... Thomas Nelson, the world's largest Christian publisher, laid off 10 percent of its workforce. "

From the magazine sector we learn that "Time Inc. is having trouble finding volunteers to take buyouts at its New York-based magazines. People completed its layoffs, while Sports Illustrated needs to hand out 20 pink slips. Elsewhere, seven staffers at Coastal Living, part of the company's hard-hit Southern Progress Group, will be let go. Time Out New York's investors put the magazine up for auction, hoping to get $40 million. Giving the timing -- terribly economy, advertising slumping, etc. -- you have to wonder just how bad things have gotten at New York's listings bible.

The list goes on. Traditional media is in huge trouble and is not only the victim of the Internet, but of its own inherent weaknesses. Solid journalism based on information and not opinion is hard to fine. If you want someone to tell you how they think about something, ask your next door neighbor. That is exactly what millions of people are doing by reviewing the 133 million blogs available on the Internet which operate on virtually no overhead. Another challenge of the journalism profession is that those who cover the stories of the day in every genre often have no idea what they are writing about. Journalism should be a double major accompanied with something of something so that they know how to cover that issue.

Unfortunately I don't see the industry changing. Instead, I see it continuously seeking scapegoats for its demise. Instead of being a worthy profession, I am afraid it is going to continue to slide down the track of being the butt of a bad joke.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home