The journalism crisis is about people

As the journalism industry continues to decline, it’s vital to underline the effects on democratic participation, on community engagement, and on public health systems. But journalism isn’t only for people; it’s also by people. And many of those people are struggling.

As a joint survey conducted by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism and the International Center for Journalists recently indicated, the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with failing economic models and political conflagration, has had dire effects on the working conditions and well being of journalists. “Their environment is painfully difficult, marked by a startling amount of psychological and financial pressure,” Emily Bell, Julie Posetti, and Peter Brown wrote last week for CJR. “In sum, our survey paints a picture of a profession absorbed in essential work amid a decreased sense of security and an overwhelming amount of mis- and disinformation that the dominant technology platforms have failed to confront.” Six percent of those surveyed by Tow and ICFJ—during the first wave of the pandemic—reported closures at their newsrooms, some temporary, some permanent. Twenty-one percent reported that their salaries had been cut. Six percent experienced furloughs; six percent were laid off. For those reporters now unemployed, job prospects are grim. According to a September report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, while employment across all occupations is projected to grow by four percent over the next ten years, employment in journalism is projected to decline by eleven percent. The crisis is not going away.

The crisis has been happening for years. Like a frog boiled slowly, we’ve allowed ourselves to adjust to the calamity, again and again. But emphasizing survival over dwindling capacity hurts the industry, and hurts the people who keep it alive. Solutions, so far, are unsustainable. And while the chatter of the still-employed tends to keep the market at the forefront of conversations about the crisis, it’s crucial to keep the human toll top-of-mind.

The Journalism Crisis Project has set its sights on finding and elevating possible solutions to the challenges that face the press in 2020. But in a year of unprecedented attrition rates, any solution to the crisis facing the journalism industry must necessarily account for the people working in it—and those who aren’t working in it any longer.

EXPLORE THE TOW CENTER’S COVID-19 CUTBACK TRACKER: Over the past six months, researchers at the Tow Center have collected reports of a wide range of cutbacks amid the pandemic. Now there’s an interactive map and searchable database. You can find it here.

Below, more on recent media trends and changes in newsrooms across the world:

JOURNALISM JOBS AND OPPORTUNITIES: MediaGazer has been maintaining a list of media companies that are currently hiring. You can find it here. The Deez Links newsletter, in partnership with Study Hall, offers media classifieds for both job seekers and job providers. The Successful Pitches database offers resources for freelancers. The International Journalists Network lists international job opportunities alongside opportunities for funding and further education. And The Lenfest Institute has begun the Lenfest News Philanthropy Network, which offers training and support for news publishers of many sizes and business models.

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