Barb Ehrenreich tells journalism school grads "Welcome to a dying industry."

Just a reminder of why supporting Voices is so important for us all - investigative journalism is collapsing as a profession, the corporations that took over the older family-owned newspapers are going bankrupt, and jounalism has never been in greater peril in the history of our country.

A country that was built by and on the free press.

Read this commencement address given by Barbara Ehrenriech on May 16 to the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2009.,_j-school_grads/

The dean gave me some very strict instructions about what to say today. No whining and no crying at the podium. No wringing of hands or gnashing of teeth. Be upbeat, be optimistic, he said -- adding that it wouldn't hurt to throw in a few tips about how to apply for food stamps.

So let's get the worst out of the way right up front: You are going to be trying to carve out a career in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. You are furthermore going to be trying to do so within what appears to be a dying industry. You have abundant skills and talents -- it's just not clear that anyone wants to pay you for them.

Well, you are not alone.

How do you think it feels to be an autoworker right now? And I've spent time with plenty of laid-off paper-mill workers, construction workers and miners. They've got skills; they've got experience. They just don't have jobs.

So let me be the first to say this to you: Welcome to the American working class.


Which brings me back to the subject of journalism as a profession. We are not part of an elite. We are part of the working class, which is exactly how journalists have seen themselves through most of American history -- as working stiffs. We can be underpaid, we can be jerked around, we can be laid off arbitrarily -- just like any autoworker or mechanic or hotel housekeeper or flight attendant.

But there is this difference: A laid-off autoworker doesn't go into his or her garage and assemble cars by hand. But we -- journalists -- we can't stop doing what we do.

As long as there is a story to be told, an injustice to be exposed, a mystery to be solved, we will find a way to do it. A recession won't stop us. A dying industry won't stop us. Even poverty won't stop us, because we are all on a mission here. That's the meaning of your journalism degree. Do not consider it a certificate promising some sort of entitlement. Consider it a license to fight.

In the '70s, it was gonzo journalism. For us right now, it's guerrilla journalism, and we will not be stopped.

At a time when investigative journalism is failing and collapsing around the country, Voices is growing. Our support and our balance sheet has never been better.

Please join with us and help us bring even more and better investigative journalism to our community.

Volunteer and donate. We want your help.



Old school newspapers choose ritual suicide

"On the surface, paid content is the reasonable idea that people should have to pay for the professionally produced content they consume.

Its core, however, is a post-rational demand that consumers abandon their habits of the past decade in favor of new behaviors intended to restore media companies to the profitability ordained to them by God Almighty."

"... when I got my turn at the mic, I rose and asked him: What profit margins will these paid-content models have to generate in order to protect creativity?

Isaacson never responded to that question, unless you call staring at me with a horrified expression a response. Instead, Merrill Brown, a senior strategist at paywall-startup Journalism Online LLC, rose in his defense. It's not about a profit margin, he said...and... well... then he said some other things (you can watch it here, although I don't know that listening would lead to a more accurate paraphrase). He did eventually concede that stockholders might have certain profit expectations.

Yes. Expectations like 20 and 30 percent profits.

So can we finally, finally call this thing what it is? Quality journalism is expensive, and to the extent that it provides a public good, we will find ways to fund it. But top-heavy, poorly run, arrogant-to-the-bitter-end media companies? This is their crisis, not our crisis, and it certainly isn't about journalism.

In other words: If Isaacson wants to join us in protecting and expanding creativity and quality, welcome aboard, Walter! Because we can do THAT for an awful lot less than what it's going to cost to bail out our brain-dead media companies on behalf of shareholders and executives."


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