Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How many reporters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Jack Shafer has a very good piece today on the reaction of many journalists to job cuts in newsrooms. I think it builds nicely on some things I said in an earlier post. Shafer makes an excellent point about the number of journalists working today:

"It's hard to sympathize with the woe-is-us crowd of journalists when you learn that the number of full-timers employed by U.S. news-media organizations today has increased by almost 70 percent compared with 1971, according to The American Journalist in the 21st Century. The book doesn't even include in its census the new jobs in online newsrooms or at the business-wire upstart Bloomberg News."
After I wrote that earlier piece, I saw somewhere a similar figure for the overall growth of journalism jobs over the past few decades. Can't seem to track it down now, though.

Of course, this ignoring of the overall jobs picture is the same mistake that most of the media makes in their general economics coverage - focusing on job losses at specific companies, while ignoring more-than-offsetting job creation at other (typically smaller) firms. In that light, maybe it isn't that surprising that they ignore the journalism job figures, too.

Why does Shafer think that journalists do this?

"Why do so many journalists inflate the importance of their role in our culture? Well, dentists brag about the miracle of dentistry, don't they? I suspect that the egotistical proclamations of journalists really mask the low esteem they hold for the total product they produce. If you fillet the average daily newspaper—cutting out the sports section, the comics, the crossword, the horoscope, the opinion pages, the entertainment coverage, and the special sections devoted to home, dining, medicine, travel, cars, real estate, and TV listings—relatively little of the democracy-enhancing, life-sustaining reportage they boast about actually gets printed."
And that, in the end, has to be what hurts the most.

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