Murphy Dome Diaries

A journalist observes life in the far north.

The newspaper biz

The News-Miner’s decision to charge for obituaries seems benign to me in light of recent announcements that the Anchorage Daily News, the state’s largest newspaper, is laying off workers and the Juneau Empire , the dominant paper in Southeast Alaska, is no longer paying toward employees’ retirement.

Working in the newspaper business worries me. The industry is morphing, and there are a million opinions about what the result will be. The businessmen preach hard work, flexibility and optimism while the cynics revel in reporting on the industry’s decline.

Craigslist, one of the reasons for the industry’s downturn, hasn’t caught on in Fairbanks. I know because I posted a rental ad a few weeks ago and got no response. My News-Miner ad brought at least a dozen calls. But it feels like only a matter of time before Craigslist, which is free, will become the main source for classified ads here, as it seems to be in other cities. What happens then?

Sometimes I wonder if my industry is a sinking ship. I know what it’s like to be on a sinking ship. I remember when I worked in a video store as a teenager. It was a family-owned store. When the fancy chain-store video outfit opened up across the street, the family business just died. We didn’t have the selection to compete. I think the owners wound up closing the video store and opening a used car lot in its place.

I worked at an ice cream store for awhile. It was my first job and my mom had to sign a permit for me to work. I spent all of my time cleaning or yacking with the employees at the music store next door because no one came in to buy ice cream. The store sat in the same strip mall as a hardware store, a check cashing establishment and a pool hall, if my memory serves me. I don’t remember when it folded.

There was also the time that I worked at a costume jewelry chain store in a mall. The company set daily sales quotas. We never met them. The business just wasn’t there. One time, the jewelry store manager, Nancy, over-accessorized a girl buying jewelry for her prom just to make a better sale. Nancy knew that all of the jewelry, hair stuff and gloves the girl bought made her look gaudy but she sold the girl all of the stuff anyway, telling her that she looked great. The store closed a couple of years after my tenure. I think a shoe store opened in its place.

I wonder who got the ax at the Anchorage Daily News. I hope it’s not Kyle Hopkins or Sean Cockerham, who were my colleagues at the News-Miner. It must be depressing to be in a newsroom where people are losing their jobs. My newsroom has shrunk over the years, but it’s been mainly through attrition. That’s depressing too.

(Graphic courtesy of www.freefoto.com.)

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2 comments on “The newspaper biz

  1. Mary
    June 16, 2008

    I’ve had good luck with Craigslist. It may be the market you are aiming for. I was looking for out-of-state grad students to rent rooms in my house, and I found them.

    It’s true, though, the newspaper industry is changing. I’m kind of glad that I left and am now working in the private sector. If I ever do go back, it will be a scary place. A scary, low-paying place with night hours. Let me just get vested in this retirement system before I even consider it.

  2. Hagen
    June 16, 2008

    I too have struck out with Craigslist. I don’t know if having the use of too many works hurts or helps. Maybe being overly descriptive ahead of time helps save time. I am 50/50 with classifieds though, I think the work Subaru gets better play than Suburban.

    Perhaps the Juneau Empire benny slashing has something to do with the 2 new job posting on Journalism Jobs. They have a city reporter and copy editor position open posted on the 16th.

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