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For the love of newsprint!

Published: August 27, 2010
Section: Opinions


This year, The Wall Street Journal became the most widely read newspaper with 2.1 million readers. According to the U.S. census, there are 300 million people in the U.S. The Wall Street Journal readership includes foreigners.

It has been all over the news for years now that the newspaper business is dying. The Boston Globe, still one of the 25 most- read papers, was inches away from shutting down in 2009, and lay-offs are increasing at newspapers all around the country.

“The newspaper as we know it will not be alive in twenty years,” Alan Murray, executive editor of The Wall Street Journal, said last spring. Ironically, he was speaking to a room full of the brightest student journalists from across the country.

I happened to be one of the journalists in that room, so you would assume if the head of the only newspaper with increasing readership tells me that the business is dying, I would change career paths while I could. But it’s not that easy. Journalism is not just a job or a profession or whatever word you want to use to describe what someone does for a living (not that journalists are making a living nowadays).

If you manage to get a job as a reporter, probably in a metropolitan area, your starting base salary is about $35,000 per year (my college tuition is $53,000 per year). Luckily for me I don’t plan on doing this for the money; I do it because I love it, because I didn’t choose journalism—it chose me.

When I tell people that, they react in different degrees of horror. There’s the “well honey, you do know that’s not really a career anymore,” the “oh, why don’t you go to law school, same skills but you actually do something,” and my favorite “so you really haven’t figured things out yet and decided this fits ‘unil you do?”

Sorry to burst your bubbles, folks, but really, I promise I’m sure. But, I’m all set on what I’m doing with my life, thanks.

In my first year of high school, my English teacher, Mrs. Clark, asked the class to write their obituaries. I didn’t do very well on that assignment; I didn’t know what to write. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Senior year she asked me again and this time I had an answer, “I want to make a difference and create change in a lot of people’s lives. I want people to remember who I am on more than just the day they read my obituary and for generations,” to which she said “how do you plan to do that?” “I’m going to be a writer,” I told her.

I don’t expect masses of people to remember me, or that I will cause huge change. I want the remembrance that comes with reading a newspaper clipping on a piece of microfiche in the library from 1887, or the story that touches one person and makes them think just a little bit differently about something they were so sure about. I want to leave those sorts of marks on the world.

News tells the story of the people. It records time in a way that still makes sense hundreds of years later. It is simple and precise, yet influential and effective. It is a marker of change from the printing press to the television, from the television to the Internet and to whatever comes next. News is the way information is conveyed to the masses.

Whether it’s the story of the marine who died fighting for his country, the high school football star’s draft offer or the politician who scammed his town out of money, thesestories come from people like me. The news comes from the storytellers, the journalists.

So you tell me newspapers are dying; the news isn’t. You tell me I’m not going to make money; you ask me where am I going to find a job.

There’s always somewhere to tell a story. Whether the masses are reading, listening or seeing the news, it needs to get out somehow. Just who do you think gets it there? Computers can do a lot of things but they can’t talk yet, they can’t walk, and they can’t get you a story.

So the news may not be read at the breakfast table anymore, it may not pay all the bills, but it’s not about that, it’s about a calling. It’s about wanting to know your doing something people care about. Its about loving what you do.

Yes, the journalism industry is changing but the people that go into are not. It’s not a job like the rest. It’s an adventure, every moment of every day, it’s a lifestyle.