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Samuel Rubenfeld, DJNF/Temple 2008, interviews Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) as part of his coverage of the final 2008 presidential debate, which was held on his campus at Hofstra University, this past October.

After returning to Hofstra University (for anyone that doesn’t know where it
is, it’s in Hempstead, Long Island) for my senior year, I applied for and
received a semester-long internship in Washington, DC, through the State
University of New York Washington Semester
Program. It’s a program offered
to political science students in the SUNY system; Hofstra is a partner.

The internship will hopefully be at a news organization down there, where
I’ll be working four days a week and taking class on Fridays. It begins Jan.
12 and ends April 24. (I do not know where I’ll be interning, nor do I know
where I’m living, but please add this line as a TK for when I find out.)

However, despite my impending temporary employment, things overall have not been going well.

The past year, especially the last few months, have been a terrible time for
newspapers. Ad revenue, the lifeblood of a paper’s funding, fell 18 percent
for the third quarter, compared with the third quarter of last year. Gannett
is laying off 2,000 workers. Newsday (where I interned in the summer of 2007 with Temple Residency alumni Allison Morrow and Andrew Knapp) just laid off another 100. The New York Times reported that the Miami Herald is up for sale and can’t find a buyer. Tribune retained law firm Sidley Austin to help it fight off bankruptcy.

And this torrent of news was just in the past week.

The worst off among journalists, I believe, have been copy editors: With the
rapidly accelerating move towards Web-first reporting, media companies have found the stubborn veterans with the well-worn AP Style Guide as expendable. Who needs to fact-check something when a reader can comment on the story to tell the reporter what needs to be fixed? As Sam Zell, a real estate magnate who bought Tribune last year, said in an interview with Portfolio magazine that the newspaper business model is “unequivocably…a failure.”

If a story “is going in the newspaper, then it goes to the copywriter, the
section editor, the page editor, I mean, it goes to everybody,” he said.
“And you wonder why the newspapers can’t financially compete.”

Some, like Jeff Jarvis, the former columnist who now teaches at CUNY’s
Journalism school, argues that newspapers sowed their own demise by not
taking to the Web, and that editors are no longer necessary; they should be
replaced or become “community organizers” who serve as teachers that
cultivate content to make reading the news outlet as more of a teaching
experience. Instead of gatekeepers, editors would be opening the floodgates.

Yet the demand for information is higher than ever before. Web traffic grows
by leaps and bounds every quarter, and the highly entertaining 2008 election
was a boon to startups like Politico and online-only publications like
TalkingPointsMemo and The Huffington Post; CNN and FOX set ratings records, and newsstands were sold out by 7 a.m. when Barack Obama won on Nov. 4.

But the problem is, for all of that growth, those vital ad dollars don’t
come at the same rate online as they do in print. Politico, the Web-paper
hybrid that launched in January 2007, which is fashioning itself as a wire
agency for all things Washington to local papers closing their DC bureaus,
relies on its print edition to bring in 70 percent of its revenue.

Given all the bleak news, I think it is not a good time to try and pursue a
career in journalism. I fear that while journalism is in my blood, and it runs black with printer’s ink, I may no longer have a chance to exercise my craft, the only trade I think I am any good at.

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