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Print Implosion: Hundreds Chase Weekly’s Entry-Level Job

June 22nd, 2009 · 1 Comment · Journalism

I live near the ocean, in Long Beach, and for decades now the shoreline area has been served by a nice little weekly. Then another. The Grunion Gazette and then the Downtown Gazette. Same company.

(A grunion, fyi, is a small, silvery fish that a few nights each year hurls itself up on the sands of Long Beach to lay eggs, and people try to catch them by hand — nets are illegal — to fry up.)

The Gazette Newspapers (url: gazettes.com) seem to have prospered. Any given week, the Grunion, in particular (the paper that serves the more upscale Belmont Shore/Belmont Heights area) can be 50-some pages, tabloid, with scads of advertising.

It certainly isn’t slick newspapering. No budding design genius works there. But there is some quality journalism going on there, as well as more than a little of the local-local news that isn’t covered anywhere else. Often, the Gazettes are more probing and more complete than the city’s struggling, Singleton-owned daily, the Long Beach Press Telegram.

But, still, five years ago, even two, the Gazette newspapers could have advertised an entry-level job opening — under the journalismjobs.com heading “Do it all” — and gotten modest response. And presumably all of it from kids just out of college.

Instead, writes Harry Saltzgaver, executive editor, he was nearly overwhelmed by job applicants — 163 in the first three days the ad was up — prompting him to write a column about how it’s “even worse” out there than he thought.

Well, yes. It is. He notes in his column, he got resumes from veterans, and from all over the planet.

Lots and lots and lots of us out there. Former print people, out of the business, willing to get back in for a weekly most of us wouldn’t have looked at (except perhaps to run or buy) just a few months ago. And “entry level” is what, $9 an hour? Benefits? Not sure, but maybe not. And the new “kid” likely will be doing all the drudge work, too.

His column:

A Pinch Of Salt

 

By Harry Saltzgaver

Published: Friday, June 5, 2009 2:54 PM PDT

    I knew it was bad, but I didn’t think it was this bad.

My ignorance, I suppose, comes from the fact that I have a job. I’ve been able to shake my head about the state of the job market, then go deposit my paycheck.

My awakening occurred late last week.

I am in possession of one of today’s most precious commodities — a vacant position. I’m not real happy about that, because it means I’m losing one of my stars.

I don’t think I chased Kelly Garrison away; at least she didn’t say it was me specifically. Fact is, she’s going back to graduate school after a two-year stint here as features editor and web master (I kept lobbying for web mistress, but the HR department said it was sexual harassment).

She’s going to be missed. She has been an integral part of our team, and in particular can take credit for getting our nifty new Web site up to speed.

Rather than replace her, I decided to start over with an entry-level position. It’s graduation season, so I figured I’d get at least a few applicants to choose from.

So far, I’ve received 163 resumes. That’s in three days.

Credit the wonder of the Internet for part of that. Mine has been more than a nationwide search; it has stretched around the globe. I’ve received resumes from Shanghai, Australia, Europe and Africa. That’s only slightly more mind-boggling than the resumes from Oregon to Ohio, from Texas to New York.

I thought I’d be looking at new college graduates seeking to start their careers. There were plenty of those. But there also were people graduating with master’s degrees — and from schools like the Columbia School of Journalism and USC’s own Annenberg School of Journalism.

    There also have been more than three dozen applicants with significant professional experience in journalism. I’m talking about full-timers, not just free-lance, and I’m talking years, not months.

I’m interviewing a few of those folks. I’ve made it clear that we’re talking about entry-level pay here, not the type of salary their experience might have commanded five years ago.

They don’t blink. Apparently, something is better than nothing in this market.

And where does that lead the truly entry-level reporter? I shudder to think.

Of course, there also is the passion for journalism. For those of us with ink in our veins, there’s nothing quite as painful as not having the chance to write on a regular basis.

I’m trying to look on the bright side here. Assuming I’m able to do my job as an interviewer, the Gazettes will get an extremely talented, qualified new writer.

But that leaves 162 (and counting) people out in the cold, still looking. That’s the dark side of this equation. Can you imagine how much talent is going to waste among those I don’t hire? Let alone the personal stories of each journalist looking for, and not finding, at least here, a job?

It seems I’m writing more and more often about the hard times being inflicted on people by this economy these days — just look at the editorial above. But this hiring process has smacked me in the face with the magnitude of the situation. I know part of it is my particular industry, but still.

The economy will eventually turn around, I know. And I hope and pray that those young (or not so young) journalists I turn away won’t give up their dreams. I wish I could hire you all.

Keep trying. We need you.

That’s the end of Harry Saltzgaver. And now I’m back. I don’t know who Harry hired, but I’d guess the person was “entry level” only in the sense of the salary paid. I’m thinking late 20s, 3-4 years in the business, laid off recently (or stuck in a weekly in a less temperate/appealing part of the country) but unwilling to give up the biz.

Yep. That’s where we’re at.

   
 

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Beth // Jun 25, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    FYI…..Singleton owns the Gazettes too! Grunion, Downtown & Uptown…

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