Will young people gravitate to a business defined by bankruptcy, decline—and, likely, fewer films about it?
over time have usually depicted the magazine and newspaper industries
with a touch of glamour, power or idealism. For some recent examples,
think “In Good Company,” “13 Going on 30” and “The Devil Wears Prada.”
Then there’s the greatest movie of all time, “Citizen Kane,” and the
movie that launched 10,000 careers, “All the President’s Men.”
there’s the occasional “Absence of Malice,” about journalistic abuse of
power, or “American Beauty,” where the troubled Kevin Spacey character
is a trade magazine editor. But generally these industries and the
journalism profession get positive treatment.
And that reflects the popular culture. The professions that make up our business have historically been appealing.
Hollywood’s love affair with journalism has for decades helped feed
talented people into the business. Smart, ambitious editors and
salespeople wanted to be the top editor at Newsweek, or the New Yorker,
or Ad Age. They wanted to be the writer in “Almost Famous,” or even
like Mr. Big in “Sex and the City.”
But is it true now?
the last 10 days alone, this page has covered the plummeting profit
margins of publicly traded magazine companies. It has covered the
staggering decline in fourth-quarter ad sales in b-to-b media. It has
covered the cancellation or dramatic downsizing of two events,
including the crown jewel of the glitzy, mass-consumer part of the
business, the American Magazine Conference.
On the newspaper
side, the Rocky Mountain News went out of business today after 150
years of publishing. Newspapers in Philadelphia filed for bankruptcy. A
paper in Seattle is teetering.
Newspapers everywhere are not just troubled, but nearing oblivion.
what’s the appeal of this business for the high school kid just heading
into college? Who the hell wants to get into an industry perceived as
in decline? And if we can’t attract talented people, what are the
implications of that?
My take? The image of a profession in
pop culture has a huge effect on whether young people choose to pursue
a career in it. That means print media is in trouble.
Maybe they’ll make a movie about it.