For me it was totally worth it. I loved it and was exceptionally passionate and serious about it, until I wasn’t and the whole thing came crashing down. But I think you’re a lot younger than I am, so by the time you were in college newspapers may have been all but done. There are a few thriving — the NY Times, because of its strong national and international brand, is a good example of a newspaper still kicking butt. There are only three or four in the U.S., and they’re the truly national newspapers.
But most newspapers like the Star-Telegram that once had a statewide and a tiny bit of national reach have become local rags. The advertising has moved to the Internet, and there are better places to advertise online than newspapers. The money newspapers used to make from subscriptions is drying up because people don’t want to pay for content online.
The product that newspapers were truly selling — and they had cornered the market — was their distribution business, made up of independent contractors, a vast network of newspaper carriers that positioned each newspaper according to its reach. At one time, the Startlegram guaranteed daily morning delivery across the state, and it was especially strong in West Texas. (Its motto: “Where the West Begins”) The Dallas Morning News guaranteed daily morning delivery throughout Texas, Oklahoma, and parts of Louisiana, and probably parts of Arkansas, etc. Now a 10-year-old kid with a smartphone has the same online distribution capabilities as the New York Times or any other global company.
That’s the great thing about having your own blog or writing on Medium. With the click of a button, you can reach anyone worldwide with an Internet connection. It’s pretty stunning how quickly it all happened. And though there’s more information available than ever before, it doesn’t seem to have made people any smarter. If anything , people seem more determined than ever to dig in on their positions and ignore the truth, no matter how obvious it is. Consider all of Trump’s lies — he knows the American people are too lazy to keep up with what’s true and what’s not. Or consider the right-wing’s continuous decades-long campaign to smear Hillary. Anyone who wants to know already knows that those in the State Department for previous administrations did the same thing Hillary and her staff did (used a private email server). Benghazi? It’s terrible that people were killed at our embassy, but Hillary’s not to blame. But by God, we’e going to waste another billion dollars and have us some more hearings about both of them. It’s so frustrating, and backward. Just pure anti-intellectualism. People who value actual information are considered elitists. So stupid.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq (which had nothing to do with 9–11) is a another example. Knight-Ridder, the company I worked for (it owned the Star-Telegram at the time) reported months before the invasion that the intelligence about Saddam trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger was faked. Others also reported that it was fake, incluing the New Yorker. I knew the intelligence was fake, but the president and vice president and secretary of Defense didn’t know? Right.
Now consider what the Bush campaign and the Swift Boat Liars did to John Kerry in 2004. Bush, whose dad got him a no-show assignment during Vietnam in the Texas Air National Guard, and Cheney, who got five deferments to avoid going to Vietnam, did the most evil, vile thing I’ve ever seen. They used the Swift Boat Veterans to spread lies about John Kerry, an actual Vietnam War hero who fought and then did the honorable thing when he came back home by testifying to congressional panels to try to end the war. But they persuaded half the people in the U.S. that Kerry had lied about his war service.
So let’s summarize some of this and see how much Americans pay attention to journalism, because every bit of what I’m writing here was well-documented and reported in a timely manner, and Americans couldn’t be bothered to pay attention well enough to follow along: Two draft-dodgers — whose connections allowed them to avoid fighting in the war that the other men of their generation were forced to fight because of the draft — invaded Iraq using faked intelligence (which everyone who cared to know already knew was fake at the time of the invasion in March 2003). One year later, these same draft-dodgers impugned the integrity of an actual war hero (the number of Kerry’s medals is truly impressive for what he did under fire) using their proxy, the Swift Boat Liars, and in so doing got re-elected to another term as President and Vice President.
These are among the reasons I left journalism, too. People are incapable of parsing fact and fiction in this country. But, enough! That’s more than enough about the good old days for one sitting.