The primary method of success for any industry is the ability to effectively adapt to changes in society to meet the needs of consumers. For the field of journalism, it is adapting to a new era in the way that news and information is spread throughout the world. That is the overhaul of the internet and online media.
The printed newspaper has been a staple of culture in the United States since the first newspaper, Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick, was printed back in 1690 by Richard Pierce. The field of journalism and news manifested itself through newspapers for centuries afterward. The spreading of news is the gorilla glue that keeps the United States held together. The culture of this country is completely driven through entertainment and communication and masses of public information have always been catacombed in the newsroom. Now, it’s all a tweet away, and it’s draining the newsroom.
According to journalism.org, the total circulation for U.S. daily newspapers in the year 1940 was just over 41 million. That number would continually rise of over the course of nearly five decades, topping at 63.3 million in 1984. Total revenue for U.S. newspapers at that time was approximately $23.5 million. Circulation saw a slight, yet steady decrease throughout the proceeding two decades, however revenue was at its highest rate ever at just under $50 million in 2005.
The following decade, in direct correlation with the internet becoming what it is today, the newsroom statistics drastically began to drop. After the total amount of newsroom employees peaked at 68,610 in 2006, the economic crash that occurred a few years after saw that number plummet to 56,230. Only rapid decrease followed over the decade and in 2015 the number dropped to 41,400.
Inevitably in that time, circulation dropped to 34.6 million in 2016, and revenue was decimated to $18 million. This has direct implications on students studying to become journalists, particularly ones at the University of West Georgia. The industry is rapidly pulling away from print and as such those aspiring to be in the field need to be exposed to the nature of doing work through online networks and publications. It is vital for our University to emphasize this as the Mass Communications program has become one of the most revered at the campus.
Adaptation is the greatest key to non-abating success in any profession. Writing for The West Georgian is a required practicum course for Convergence Journalism majors at UWG. If what we are teaching students is not completely reflective of what is done at the professional level, we are doing a disservice by not fully preparing them to be professionals.
As reliance to online media continues to slash jobs and empty the vault of the journalism industry, it is critical to emphasize that writing is about independence. A veteran of the field will often tell a journalism student to turn back while they can, that half of the country wants to be in this field and a lot of them will do the work for free. One might hope to see the end of the printed newspaper and witness our generation of journalists conquer a new era.