Opinion

Hold on to good journalists, Philly

News will always be needed, despite changing mediums.

PaigeGrossAs I think about all the great things to look forward to in the coming year in Philadelphia, I have to wonder who will be there to cover it.

This past week, Philadelphia Media Network, comprised of the Inquirer, the Daily News and philly.com announced it would be merging its newsrooms.

Terrance C.Z. Egger, publisher and CEO of PMN told employees Friday in a meeting there will be layoffs. The company is looking to save between $5 and $6 million, of which Egger said is due to a decline in advertising revenue, according to philly.com.

As a City Desk intern for the Daily News, hearing whispers among reporters and editors as they filed out of the meeting made me feel a little bit like all of the people who told me not to go into journalism were right.

I always had faith in the practice. Informing the public, whether it be on politics, education or smaller issues, is important, I would say. So, so important.

And it is—that’s part of the reason this merger feels so wrong. Both papers will still exist—the Inquirer and the Daily News will still be hosted by philly.com as well as the site producing original content—but there will be layoffs.

What is unsettling is that there is nothing new about this situation. For years, newsrooms across the country and world have been cutting their staffs and trying out cost-saving methods to keep a publication alive.

In early October, CNN reported the Los Angeles Times, owned by Tribune Publishing, had finally moved forward in its plan to cut employees with a mix of buyouts and “involuntary reductions.” Tribune Publishing also owns the Baltimore Sun and the Chicago Tribune as well as some regional papers who have all cut their staffs.

Journalism has always been a business, one that has unfortunately been joined by sites like the Odyssey and Buzzfeed. While some of these sites try to produce news content, they’re much better known for hosting Gifs and listicles.

My colleagues at The Temple News and I contemplated the idea of a society that depends on these sites for their news.

The problem with this concept comes from the very nature of these sites as a platform for entertainment and the idea that anyone can be a journalist. While I know journalists who have degrees in science, French and poetry, becoming a journalist means learning AP style, a code of ethics, responsible judgment and practicing accuracy. Too many publications disregard one or many of these rules.

How news is presented has changed drastically in the last 50 years—the introduction of new technology has brought so many mediums into the world of journalism. In the last five years, even, Twitter, Instagram and Periscope have become tools in newsgathering. These new tools, though, also make it possible for anyone to post news.

Maybe the issue is that being an informed citizen isn’t as much priority now as in the past. Maybe people just won’t pay for their news when they can get a half-assed version somewhere else.  Maybe it is just too hard to wade through all the bad and untrustworthy sources to find reliable news.

While PMA has not given any formal numbers about who could be lost in the merger, it is tough to think about any potential losses. Both newsrooms house talented, award-winning reporters and editors. During the recent papal visit, Philadelphia media set the bar for visiting outlets, reporting across all platforms.

Philadelphia will again host national outlets for the July 2016 Democratic National Convention, a time our news mediums should be stronger than ever.

The recent loss of City Paper had current and former reporters lamenting its commitment to reporting on Philadelphia in its grimy, glorious state.

It’s hard to think we will again be saying goodbye to some of the people who have told the stories of this city. They do it consistently, they do it well, they do it with the best intentions of informing the public. May we recognize who could be lost in the merger of two competing, but very different papers.

News will never stop being important, though the platforms in which we consume it will change. I hope the stories Philadelphia reporters told will not fade, even after the newsprint does.

Paige Gross can be reached at paige.gross1@temple.edu or on Twitter @By_paigegross.

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