It’s Facebook official: Newspapers have an escape plan

Newspaper Escape Plan

Newspaper Escape Plan logo/ twitter image

Since its creation in Aug. 2008 by Martin Gee, a former San Jose Mercury News employee, the Newspaper Escape Plan Facebook group has evolved into quite the forum. Printosaurs and media gurus alike are invited to discuss issues, share resources and give tips to those in journalism. The “common interest—self help” group calls the newspaper industry an “abusive relationship” and urges members to transfer their skills to a new industry more deserving.

John Zhu is a writer, copy editor and web/graphic designer who escaped the news industry in 2006. He posted a collection of blog posts dedicated to finding ways to get out of the newspaper business mid-career. In one post called “How to (Voluntarily) Become an Ex-Journalist,” he offers links ranging from job boards, what to do after being laid off and free courseware classes on journalism and media. He doesn’t do this out of spite or hatred for the industry–but he does believe that times are rocky and people need all the help they can get.

Northwestern University’s Media Management Center recently published a report, “Life beyond print: Newspaper journalists’ digital appetite,” that surveyed 3,800 people in a cross-section of newspaper newsrooms.

The study outlined six profiles of  journalists:

1. Digitals make up 12% of the workforce and include the youngest age group that works mostly online. More than half of them have undergraduate or graduate degrees in journalism.

2. Major Shift makes up 11% of the workforce. This group is a mix of reporters, editors, designers and videographers who usually have 15 years or so in the business. This group is also the most pessimistic about staying where they are in the business and wants to see more change.

3. Moderately More makes up 50% of the workforce. This group wants to see a more equal divide between print and online media and believes future of the newsroom is bright.

4. The Status Quo includes the 14% who devote about 30% of their efforts to online journalism. Nearly half are age 50 or above. This group feels the evolution of newspapers has happened at a good pace.

According to the study, “Online desire in the newsroom is not determined by age, years of journalism experience, or proximity to retirement. And youth is not a factor in predicting who in the newsroom wants to move into digital. Rather, the top two predictors of digital appetite are heavy Internet use outside work and having knowledge of online audiences and their preferences.”

The study concludes by noting that journalists have the drive, but the necessary tools for change and access to engaged leadership aren’t always readily available. What do you think about this? What group(s) do you fit in best?

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5 responses to “It’s Facebook official: Newspapers have an escape plan

  1. “…The necessary tools for change and access to engaged leadership aren’t always readily available.” Are we talking about engaged leadership in digital media?

    I think journalists have a tendency to be stubborn people by nature, which is maybe why we’re still holding onto the idea of print. As far as the six profiles are concerned, it made me wonder where I am in all of this. It took me a long time to go digital for much of anything. I’ve only had the Internet now for about a year and a half. But I feel like so much of our lives and our media is on the Internet, so there really isn’t much of a choice, is there?

    That being said, I probably fall under the status quo profile–even if it took me a while to get there.

  2. Ann Schnoebelen

    After reading this, I joined the facebook group.
    In reading the postings on the wall and looking over the page itself, I find the whole concept useful. Here are people really utilizing social media. People are promoting themselves and their skills, using it as a “Help Wanted” ad, and there’s an open discussion about the condition of the industry in which all those talking are visibly passionate about the topic.
    I also like where Gee writes, “Journalism and the newspaper industry are two different things. We are still passionate about journalism and its role in our democracy. Let’s do it in new and innovative ways while newspapers continue to self-destruct.”

    Interesting attitude, and one I think I can get on board with.

    • I joined the Facebook group too. It offers an interesting perspective, you know? The group wasn’t created out of spite for the industry or to ruin the careers of journalists, it’s a self-help tool that we should all learn to use.

  3. Sometimes I feel more resistant than my peers to some of the recent media changes. However, I think it’s important to clarify that there are differences between those that are resistant to online journalism and those that are resistant to the use of social media and other web resources. I struggle more in adapting to the social media component than the notion of online journalism. I’m completely supportive of online journalism because it makes sense to me. It’s using the media outlet that is most popular in order to reach more readers.

    However, some of the social media scares me. I’m not sure how I feel that my first job as a journalist could be updating a Web site’s Twitter account. That just doesn’t feel like “real journalism” to me.

    When I look at the Twitter profiles of political pundits, I feel pretty confident they’re not updating their own Twitter accounts. That bothers me a bit. If it’s not really them, what’s the point of the profile concept? Maybe I’m being too critical, though…

    To me, Twitter is a form of advertising (most tweets simply direct traffic to blogs.) So, I guess I feel like that should stay more in the PR realm of journalism rather than continue to be treated as a “form” of journalism. I won’t pretend I don’t need to learn about Twitter, I just wish I knew more about how long it will last and where it will go.

    • I think you bring up some good concerns with social media, especially about Twitter profiles and having a first job that revolves around tweeting. It doesn’t really feel like journalism, but it’s also something we’re being pushed to do; if you don’t work to get ahead and “join the conversation,” you get left behind.

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