Newspaper Trade Journal To Print Its Last
In April, the cover of the Newspaper Association of America’s trade magazine Presstime pleaded “Don’t Stop the Presses!,” the don’t and the exclamation point in bright red, confident and defiant serif font.
Yesterday, the president and CEO of the NAA, in the subdued acceptance of Editor&Publisher’s decidedly sans serif* automatic, took on the tenor of a world leader announcing an approaching meteor: “Even in this difficult situation, we must remain optimistic.”
Or maybe it was the final, grand march of General Custer, a yes-we-can immediately followed by an apparently-we-can’t. The “Don’t Stop the Presses!” issue will forever be the ironic penultimate one.
Despite the call to keep the presses running, the NAA is cutting half its staff and Presstime will forthwith be an online-only publication. Sturm cited a poor first quarter as the catalyst for the decision and said the economic downturn was “sharper and more severe than anyone saw coming even six months ago,” and there’s no hint of a bottom yet.
That type of negativity is spreading faster than the swine flu. A PRWeek/PR Newswire media survey this week revealed that 50 percent of journalists are considering a career change this year. That’s half. Imagine half all of lawyers suddenly quitting. Wait. Bad example. Imagine half of all Subway sandwich makers walking off the sandwich line, half of all doctors calling it quits, half of all mechanics, half of all Congress—another bad example.
Many journalists aren’t going to have a choice, anyway. Taking a bullet for your paper doesn’t even grant job security any more, so why commit to the Fourth Estate in the first place?
The negativity is not limited to small publications, either. Back in January, when death of journalism stories were being pumped out with the regularity of weather reports, when Google’s Eric Schmidt didn’t have any ideas either, I asked a well known editor of a popular, respected, and major national news magazine what could be done to save it. This is what the editor said:
“As for what saves [long form] journalism, I’m sorry, but I can’t think of anything. Not trying to be glib. I really think we’re all fucked.”
Well, so much for sugar-coating. If that editor didn’t know, did anybody? How about Curt Brandao, aka Digital Slob? Here’s a guy straddling both sides of the fence, a syndicated newspaper columnist and podcaster, a regular Renaissance slob.
“The problem isn’t newspapers,” he said. “It’s the Captains of Industry at their helm who are willing to metaphorically cut off their own arms, (while more literally cutting off ours) to keep a 20 percent margin for investors for one more year, when they could easily make 11 or 12 percent for 125 more years.
”Sure, sure, there’s not as much money to be had online (now) as there was/is in print. Doesn’t matter.
“Remember the movie ‘Poseidon Adventure’ when the ship was already upside down and the water was rising and Shelly Winters took a long swim to find a way out for the group, knowing she would definitely run out of air unless she found some on the other side? That’s what newspapers need to do. Take a deep breath, commit to the new paradigm, and swim like hell.”
Well, that sounds like as good an answer as any, and the NAA is suddenly looking a lot more like Shelly Winters.
*Serif fonts (with the fancy little tails) are traditionally for print reading. Sans serif makes it easier to read from screens. You can read more about fonts in an old, wordy classic of mine called “The Essentials of Font Philosophy.”