How best to get at the cost for society, for journalism and for journalists of the loss of thousands of jobs at American newspapers? This series tries to do it by asking journalists who have shown themselves capable of producing work of the highest caliber – winners of the Pulitzer Prize who are no longer at a newspaper – for their reflections on what happened to them, what it’s meant and how they view the future.
Where did the news business go wrong? I’d start with the growing obsession over the past couple decades with short-term earnings, and a corresponding neglect of the long view. I remember feeling unsettled back in the early 1990s with how near-sighted the corporate financial model had become. I didn’t have a business degree, but anyone with a driver’s license knows the importance of keeping one eye on what lies ahead.
Eric Nalder wrote this great lede on the Seattle Times’ Pulitzer series on oil tanker safety after the Exxon Valdez disaster. He described standing on the deck of an oil tanker “as long as three football fields” with the lone crew member assigned to watch the distant horizon for small boats and icebergs – and discovering that the guy couldn’t see, that he suffered from double vision. That kind of describes the last 20 years of the newspaper industry. The iceberg was in view long before we hit it, but no one with any real vision was looking that far ahead.