Every farm kid can recite an old adage their parents drilled into them from an early age. For me, some of my dad’s clever words come to mind first, “The only way to make money raising pigs is to not raise pigs.”
This paradoxical statement refers to the fact that our family farm is more hobby than business. Today, it is nearly impossible for a hog farm to stay afloat in today’s industry unless it produces thousands of pigs and all its own feed each year. Essentially, get big or get out.
For agriculturalists, this mentality is reality. They have never known the stable lifestyle that the rest of society leads so they prepare for the worst and enjoy the best.
They are nothing like the newspaper industry.
Today’s newspapers are facing tough times. Many papers are shutting down the presses after years of circulation and media analysts seem shocked that the long expected hard times have finally hit the industry. Like small farms, papers have fallen victim to the “go big or get out” curse, however, they seem to have never realized it would really happen.
I used to give journalists more credit than that. After reading Jack Shafer’s Slate article “Democracy’s Cheat Sheet,” I have learned that apparently the newspaper industry is exempt from the natural phenomena of capitalism and social growth and should be pitied for their plight.
Top it all off, apparently society thinks that newspapers are essential to the preservation of democracy.
Now I won’t speak for all Americans, but in my mind, the newspaper has no effect on democracy. Don’t get me wrong, the two work together quite nicely, but you can easily have one without the other!
I’ll grant, big companies who own multiple news venues can control/censor the reporting but if these corporations are not owned by the government then what can you do about it? Isn’t that what we’re asking for in our free market economy?
Mr. Shafer seems to conclude that newspapers should purposely stay small and risk financial ruin before they face the pressures of big business and propaganda of large news corporations.
I may not be a media analyst or a column writer for Slate, however, I do know a thing or two about the real world. I know that you evaluate the risks before you get into something, and you prepare yourself to fail. In my opinion, all the varied issues Shafer discussed are nothing compared to the fact that newspapers do not recognize failure as an option.
Shafer is not alone in this doomsday view of journalism. I am constantly reading retweets and blogposts of fellow journalism students who are as frustrated as I am by their elders in the industry. These are so frequent that I even found one this morning when I logged on my twitter account titled: “Stop exaggerating: journalism is not dying. It’s changing.”
Shouldn’t today’s journalists have planned for a change in the industry? Did they really think that they would do the same exact task the same exact way their entire career? Are today’s journalists really living in this never changing dream world?
Newspapers could learn a thing or two from agriculture.
On an individual level, journalists need to evaluate risks and accept change. Most importantly, the entire industry needs to accept the fact that you do what you do because you love it, not because society is behind you.
If social support was required, America wouldn’t have any farmers. If journalists don’t move past the need for society’s endorsement, then America won’t have any newspapers either.