In an ever-struggling industry, here’s what gives me hope

The news about media outlets struggling and folding was dire enough as of last fall, when The Associated Press reported that the U.S. had “lost one-third of its newspapers and two-thirds of its newspaper journalists since 2005.” In the first two months of this year, the list of media outlets scaling back or shuttering entirely grew even longer.  

In January, the Los Angeles Times laid off more than 100 journalists; Sports Illustrated announced significant staff cuts that left the magazine’s fate in question; and Pitchfork folded into GQ magazine, effectively ending its decades-long reign as a major source of quality music criticism. 

In February, NPR cut 10 percent of its staff, and Vice, once valued at $5.7 billion, announced that it will shut down its website. Closer to home, The Nevada Independent announced that—between voluntary departures over the last year and recent layoffs due to budget issue—the staff of this important, statewide news outlet is now just more than half the size it was a year ago.  

I can only imagine we’ll see more such news in March.  

Long story short: Newspapers used to make enough to get by on classified ads, print ads and subscription fees, and all three of those have ceased to be viable revenue streams, so the news industry finds itself forced to find a way to rebuild its revenue model in order to survive—and survive, we must. Where there are no news outlets, voter participation declines; the powerful go unchecked; and corruption flourishes. Where there is no local news, important stories about the people in a given community go untold. People feel more disconnected. 

The working conditions in journalism have never been cushy. Over the last two decades, they’ve gotten continually less comfortable. Job security has tanked. Salaries don’t come anywhere near keeping up with the ever-rising cost of living—and, in many cases, industry leaders take no salary at all. Of the hundreds of digital news publications that have launched to fill the news-coverage gaps left open all over the country, many are run by industry veterans who are full-time volunteers.  

This is all, to say the least, stressful. I don’t think I’ve unclenched my jaw since I started this job in September.  

So what keeps me getting out of bed each day to continue getting out the news? Well, as dismal as the above statistics are, there is one thing that provides me with an unshakeable source of hope.  

It is this: Our young people are amazing. The up-and-coming reporters who work with the RN&R are truly inspiring—like, mind-bogglingly, how-did-we-get-so-lucky inspiring. With them on our team, my sense of hope works like one of those trick birthday candles: The second it’s extinguished, it flares right back up.  

Journalists in their 20s—and teens, as one of our reporters is in high school—face a career ladder that barely exists anymore. They maintain other jobs, sometimes multiple other jobs, and work for us on the side. That—plus the fact that we all work remotely now—makes acquiring reporting skills and institutional knowledge a slower, more difficult process than it would be if we were all working side-by-side in a newsroom together all day. But our young reporters are not deterred. They ask great questions; they learn fast; and they work much harder than their paychecks would belie. 

The reason they have such iron-clad work ethics is because they care. They care about participating in civic life. They care about seeking the truth. They care about getting useful, verified information to people who need it. They care about telling great stories. They care about seeing things from more than one angle, about understanding other people’s points of view. They care about social justice and equality. They care about amplifying the voices who don’t always get their due. They care about making sure you know about the inspiring things that the people in our arts, music and literature communities are doing. They make me proud and get me through until quitting time—every single day. 

Not all of our contributors are in their teens or 20s. Some of our writers are retirement-age, while some are news professionals who’ve been building their skill sets for a decade. Some are juggling families and full-time jobs, and they still make time to help the RN&R keep reporting news, finding great stories to tell, and helping you, our readers, stay up to date on local culture. 

Props to the entire team. I cannot imagine attempting to grin and bear the news industry’s ongoing existential crisis without you.