I grew up dreaming of working as a journalist. I never saw journalists as heroes, but I saw them as a source of hope. To me, they were people who had the power to change a a community, or more, for the better.
Sadly, for me and many others like me, the outlook of journalism is barren. Local newspapers are in near free-fall, and even some national publications are feeling the consequences. Local newspapers across the nation are ringing out their death knell. Ohio’s own Cleveland Plain Dealer is one of them.
The total staff of The Plain Dealer has been reduced to just four journalists, none of whom will cover the city of Cleveland nor surrounding areas. A newspaper that has been serving the city of Cleveland since 1842, that two decades ago had 340 employees, is now reduced to a staff smaller than most high school newspapers. The latest layoffs and resignations were all union journalists, and they we be replaced by non-union reporters from Cleveland.com
This is another sign of worse things to come for local journalism. Just last year, Youngstown’s 150-year-old newspaper, The Vindicator, closed its doors for good, and now it seems Cleveland could be facing the same fate in the coming years. The absence of local newspapers provide breeding grounds for corruption, lack of accountability and abuse. But it’s more than just troubling; it’s a heartbreaking reality that one of our nation’s oldest and most vital institutions is on life-support. As local newspapers around the nation fail, they will leave behind information deserts in their wake. The Washington Post will not fill the void to provide oversight of city councils and mayoral offices.
This won’t just hurt the communities these papers leave behind. The voices so necessary to journalism, those from marginalized and underprivileged communities, also must borrow the most to obtain a degree. With the bleak job outlook for journalists, those students cannot realistically be expected to take on the challenge of entering this field. As time goes on, journalism will likely become whiter and more exclusive. For many students like myself, the dream of being a reporter will die with the closure of every midwestern, rural and small-town paper that’s forced to call it quits.
The only hope is the presence of small, but reliable localized online outlets, but we can never expect these sites to have the resources and power a paper like The Plain Dealer did at its peak. This is a problem with no solution; the reality of life with powerful and accessible technology has set newspapers back. Conglomerates and executives with no stake in the communities their papers reside in will continue to lay off and shut down. The owners will be fine, but everyone else will suffer.
Noah Wright is a junior studying strategic communication at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Noah? Tweet him @NoahCampaign.