Saturday, January 24, 2009

Print Boomers: Reaching the Top, Seeing the Bottom

Paul Oberjuerge writes:

I am convinced that journalists who entered the profession in the 1970s enjoyed the greatest 20-30 years in American print journalism history.

It was in the 1970s that even modest hometown newspapers and the most avaricious chains were making so much money … that they managed to indulge their ambitions, in the margins.

And things just got bigger and better, almost uniformly, right through the 1980s and 1990s, and even into the first few years of this century.

Most newspapers got bigger. Nearly all of them got better. Far better.

They covered more topics. They traveled farther and more often. The number of foreign corresondents spiked. Capital bureaus across the country got big. All that was grand for reporters.

Meanwhile, managers enjoyed the rush of deploying ever-growing ranks of reporters. People who did layout got to use color and color graphics, and put together pages of material original and specific to their paper, written by their on-the-scene co-workers.

And this is key, too: Pay went up. Steadily, even dramatically. A business that for hundreds of years had barely paid a living wage suddenly became a ticket into the middle class.

And most of that happened on the Boomers’ watch.

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