Newspapers Fire Young People Most

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Common sense would suggest that during this whole “death of print” era, newspapers would desperately cling to their young, idealistic and Internet-savvy employees who are willing to work for low entry-level wages.

But no.

According to a survey of newspaper editors, “workers between 18 and 35 years old represented the largest age group affected by [newspaper] layoffs, buyouts and attrition.”

Reports the AP:

By MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Cost-cutting newspapers are losing many of their youngest reporters, editors and photographers at the same time publishers are trying to break some of their old habits and learn new tricks on the Internet.

The findings emerged in a recent survey conducted by the Associated Press Managing Editors, an industry group. The report suggests the massive staff cuts at newspapers across the United States will make it even more difficult for the industry to adapt and remain relevant in the age of digital media.

Most of the 95 editors responding to the August survey said their newsroom staffs had shrunk by more than 10 per cent during the past year. And workers between 18 and 35 years old represented the largest age group affected by the layoffs, buyouts and attrition, the survey found.

Retaining younger workers may be more important than ever as the Internet reshapes the way stories and photographs are assembled and presented. While many older journalists are adapting, the adjustment presumably isn’t as difficult for younger workers who have grown up with the Internet and may have honed their digital skills in college. Having the viewpoints of younger workers also helps newspapers identify trends and issues affecting younger generations.

The Huntsville Times in Alabama has been relying on its younger reporters to help teach everyone else in the newsroom how to tap into popular sites like Facebook and MySpace to find story ideas and sources, said Curtis Coghlan, the newspaper’s managing editor.

“It really has helped our coverage become younger (in tone) and more in touch with what’s going on in the community,” Coghlan said. “It has really helped us get more diverse stories into the paper faster.”

Publishers often offer buyouts or early-retirement packages to older workers in hopes of retaining their younger — and typically lower paid — employees, said newspaper analyst Ken Doctor of Outsell Inc. But when the job cutting dictates layoffs, union rules sometimes handcuff management by requiring workers with the least tenure to be shown the door first, Doctor said.

Persuading current and prospective workers that newspapers remain an attractive career option is getting more difficult as the industry’s financial woes mount. Nearly one-quarter of the newspaper industry’s annual advertising sales have evaporated during the last two years, and analysts don’t expect all of it to come back after the U.S. economy recovers from the longest recession since World War II.

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