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The Death of the Fourth Estate

December 4, 2008
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More news today of the deep and wide strokes dismantling the journalism world. Gannet is giving a lot of people the heave-ho. My editor even wrote about it on his personal blog here at the Journal.

Now Gannet isn’t the company I work for, but I’m starting to feel it when my carreer field bleeds — and this one is a gusher. I guess I chose the wrong path when I decided to declare “Journalism: News/Editorial” as my major.

Check out the blog if you want to know what I’m talking about: http://rapidcityjournal.com/blogs/editor/?p=670

Here’s part of the blog — a first-person account of an Indy Star journo who was laid off Wednesday:

I walked in the door home a few minutes ago, kissed my wife, and since I don’t know what else to do but be a journalist, I’ll report:

The bosses at the Indy Star are handling it fairly well, compared to some other shops. No bum’s rush out the door or anything. Handshakes, pleasantries, all that. Take your time gathering your things.

The first few minutes after you get back from HR on the 6th floor are interesting. Everyone can see the gray folder in your hand, and some people start avoiding eye contact. Most, though, soon approach and offer their condolences. Not a few hugs are exchanged. Our theater and classical music writer, an absolute workhorse who gave me a very classy goodbye, soon got the call himself. He had to take a minute and down some caffeine before going up.

My last act as an employee was to call an author I’d scheduled an interview with next week to cancel. I’d been pursuing that source for the better part of a year, dropping off materials for her to read and calling every few weeks to convince her to sit down. My persistence paid off and I was finally going to nail the interview, but now it’ll never happen. She reminded me not to forget to return the two books she’d loaned me to read.

Like most people in the Star newsroom, I’d preemptively packed up a bunch of stuff. All I really had left was a bunch of clip files and archives of the entertainment section, of which I was the editor for nearly two years.

‘I am not ready’
Newspapers are surprisingly heavy, especially when you’re carrying them to your car on your last walk out of the building. It’s funny; we think of newspapers as being so insubstantial, so temporary in their usefulness, soon to be discarded for the next batch. It’s only when you gather them up together that their corporeal heft is plain. I look at what I wrote over the past year, and it’s at least two novels worth of words.

A writer? I never considered myself as such. I am a newspaperman. Well, I was. I don’t know what I am now. In this market, I know what my chances are of landing another newspaper gig. I have to face that this is probably the end of my journalism career — it goes without saying that I am not ready.

But there are hundreds of us today, thousands. My story is not special. But I still wanted to tell it, because that’s what I do. Did.

Maybe I should work on my resume this weekend. Heck, maybe now would be a good time for me to go back to school, and deeper into debt.

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