Jeff Jarvis today directed attention to a boston.com article about the fate of pressmen, many of whom thought their jobs would last forever and are facing the very real possibility that their may be no need for them at all in the near future.
It was a nice article, clearly an attempt to gain sympathy for the other-than-reporter types who are losing jobs in the new information model. It doesn’t, of course, say why any of this is happening. Doesn’t even question why. It just says it is so. And that’s okay, I suppose. It’s the same kind of protect-your-own “journalism” newspapers have been participating in for years.
What it also doesn’t point out is that, as scary and sad as it might be to see folks losing their jobs, this isn’t a new thing in America or, indeed, the world. Just 150 years ago, every community had a wainwright, a wheelwright, a ferrier, a sawyer and a tinker. There aren’t many of those around today, are there? But in 1850, you’d have to look awfullyhard to find a television producer or an IT director. Heck, back then you couldn’t find an auto worker, an electrician or a cable installer either.
The point is that pressmen are an endangered species. In 20 years, they’ll likely be all but extinct, except for in boutique publications or perhaps printing greeting cards and such.
All of this again goes back to the idea, though, that newspapers are no longer the cash cows they once were. It isn’t that they aren’t useful anymore; it’s that they don’t have the information monopoly they once enjoyed.
I have sat in board rooms trying to determine the right ad rate for a newspaper. The question is always “How much do we think they’ll pay?” And, frankly, the fact that newspapers charge outlandish prices for classifieds, obituaries and wedding announcements is just another reason the public sought to break the monopoly and create an alternative.
That alternative is soon to overtake the old media. The apple cart has officially been upset. And I cannot pretend to feel sorry for those who allowed greed to guide the hands that guided the news industry.
Yes, job loss is always sad. It’s always scary. But we’ve been through revolution before, and we can go through it again.