Is Print Journalism On Its Last Leg?

A chronicler of American history said goodbye to its readers last week: The Rocky Mountain News. The paper printed its last edition on Friday, just 55 days shy of its 155th birthday.

This paper was not just an ordinary, sub-par newspaper forced to shut its doors. The Rocky Mountain News was an extraordinary paper, winning four Pulitzer Prizes in the last decade. But in the midst of a tumultuous Joint Operating Agreement and stumbling to find ad revenue in this economic downturn, it was time for the paper to close its doors.

For a young journalist like myself, receiving this news was like hearing about the death of an old classmate. It’s painful, and makes you wonder where your own future is headed. Just having graduated from college four years ago, I was never warned that pursuing a career in print journalism could be as pointless as pursuing a career in underwater basket weaving. Fortunately, my first job taught me that in order to survive in print journalism, newspapers, magazines, etc. have to think digital. Unless we are appealing to the online masses and making the strength of the WWW as strong or even stronger than the print product, we will never survive in this burgeoning digital world.

So is there any point in people going into journalism at a time like this? Poynter Online’s Ask the Recruiter answers this question in his blog today. My take? Yes, the need for journalism — whether it’s print, television or online — will always exist. Even in 100 years, I expect that some people will still want to hold a magazine and read the news instead of squinting to read it off their Blackberry 4000 (or whatever model is popular in 2109). But digital journalism has to be the focus of educators and students. And journalism students must be taught entrepreneurship — how to start their own news blogs, organizations, etc. It takes great ingenuity and creativity to survive in this world of growing citizen journalism.


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