Shrinking Paper Size Parallels Diminished Desire To Work On Papers

Jon Fine at Business Week explores the move by The Wall Street Journal to reduce its paper costs.

Some day-after coverage of the Wall Street Journal’s decision to shrink its physical dimensions by about 20% focuses, smartly, on newsprint costs.
The dynamic is this: Newsprint is–surprise–a newspaper’s second biggest expense after labor. In the Nineties and well into this decade, an unconsolidated paper industry made it easy for newspapers to play one supplier off another. It’s harder to do this now, so newsprint prices are finally rising from artificially low levels–and this happens as newspaper companies almost universally report persistently lousy revenue and earnings.
Each medium takes a turn at being the media’s whipping boy, and now it’s newspapers’ turn. Some of what’s been written is likely overstated, but I’m struck by the pessimism I’ve heard in recent private conversations with media and newspaper executives.

Addressing the greatest cost for newspapers–labor–Steve Baker, another BW writer points to this Cleveland Plain Dealer article in Fine’s comments section.

“We’re losing so many hard-news students to public relations, advertising and marketing,” one professor told me. “They just want to make money.”
“They want to keep the baby-boomer lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed,” said a professor at a school that boasts a boatload of Pulitzer Prize winners among its alumni. “The thought of starting out at $25,000 or $30,000 to expose corruption and champion the underdog just doesn’t do it for them. They have no interest.”
One journalism professor told me that hordes of women are opting for the softer — and more lucrative — career in public relations.
“A lot of them want to be event planners,’ ” she said. She nodded at my raised eyebrows.
“Seriously,” she said. “They want to plan parties.”
Professors who care deeply about the mission of journalism worry that the values we old poops hold dear in this profession hold little appeal for the many budding journalists who’d rather shill than grill.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Matt Hulbert says:

    Who wants to go to college to work for ~$20k a year? About 13 years ago I worked at a small paper that was paying entry-level reporters $15-18k a year to work 6 days a week.
    How is that attractive? There’s more to life than money, but there’s more to life than reporting!

  2. Champion the underdog? Expose corruption? How about write health features and cover local festivals? Many journalists, myself included, were willing to make the trade off of crappy pay for rewarding work. Newspapers have stopped holding up their end of the bargain. Now that most newspapers are corporately owned, they only care about making money and squeezing as much news hole out of the paper and reporters out of the newsroom as they can. Also there’s no innovation or openness to new technology. You have to consider what newspapers have to offer before blaming people for not wanting to work for them.