The state of the American newspaper, 2019

Update 1: Well, they’ve taken down the video. Essentially, it shows empty hallways and empty desks.

Update 2 below.

Want a metaphor of the hollowing out of the newspaper industry? I walked these halls  for 27 years when I worked for the News & Record.

In a way it’s deceptive. The building isn’t vacant, but part of it is. A staff of hard-working, serious-minded journalists who want to serve their readers, our community, and to get it right put out the news every day. The newsroom — not shown here — has desks that overflow with paper and coffee cups and the detritus that all journalists save, just like newsrooms everywhere.

But there are fewer of them. Many fewer. I still bear the emotional scars of contributing to the emptiness.

I’ve been in the building once since I left in 2011 — to mourn the passing of a beloved colleague — and I didn’t venture beyond the first-floor auditorium. I didn’t want to; it was haunting enough then.

My friend Jeri Rowe sent the video to me and said it would break my heart. It doesn’t. It makes me sad. The building is filled with memories of journalists here and gone. Of personalities that were larger than life. Of stories that kicked ass and won awards and made a difference.

But that time is over, or soon will be. The same day Jeri sent me this, Jeff Jarvis  posed  this question in an incisive piece on Medium: “Is it possible to turn a content-based, information-based business into one that is built on and begins with the public conversation and is based on service?”

He believes we can. I do, too.

My old newspaper building is for sale, and  when it is, it will be torn down to make way for something new. And that’s probably the most apt metaphor. The staff will move to a smaller place and, I hope, find new and better ways to start the conversation and to serve the community.

Update: Cindy Loman, editor of the N&R, writes: “Though we have lots of empty spaces (thus the plan to move to a smaller building) the video is misleading. It spotlights the former work area of the ad department, which has moved downstairs, to a brighter area that offers more interaction among the employees.”

5 thoughts on “The state of the American newspaper, 2019

  1. I spent my twenties in that building. I still remember the way I felt the first day I came in as an intern, when the newsroom was large and relatively full and bustling.

    Every part of the building seemed alive and buzzing.

    By the time I left a few years ago, the emptiness of parts of the building and the hollowing out of the newsroom made me really sad.

  2. I spent 27 years in the mailroom at the News and Record. Am now working in Winston but it’s not the same. So thankful that I still have a job.

  3. I worked for the News and Record for 42 years. I started when we were a total hot type production department. We had 22 Linotype machines that produced every hot lead line that made up the paper. When I retired in 2006 we used 2 full page photo type setters to put out all of the pages for each edition. We worked with so many great people in News, Advertising, and Production to put out a great newspaper. Thanks to all of the people that I worked with for making this one of the greatest places to work and see so many different people that made my life memories so great.

  4. there are no words to describe my disgust with what bh media has done to destroy landmark’s vision of the news & record. their operational integration of the local newspapers has made the our former newspaper a news & fishwrap version of its former self – such a joke. little wonder we dropped our subscription years ago when they took over.

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