Thursday, July 09, 2009

Growing Pains

I wanted to be a journalist ever since second grade.

The interest started with poetry I wrote in Mrs. Sadler's class at Maple Dale Elementary. Can't remember the subject of my prose, but I have a feeling it had something to do with fossils or Mothers Day. Just a guess.

That's when I discovered some people in this world make a living stringing words together. Sure, some folks balance ledgers or mend broken bones. Others litigate in courtrooms or drive buses.

My little eight-year-old self dreamed of putting pen to paper and telling stories - be they mine or someone else's.

Through the years, I meandered through school papers, eventually snagging a columnist gig at the University of Kentucky. I loved seeing my words and thoughts in print (I must admit, the byline was pretty cool, too). I also dabbled in college radio, digitally splicing bits of audio, writing scripts and voicing in a nearly soundproof room, my lips just inches away from a massive, fuzzy microphone cover.

Radio wasn't my bag, baby, and though I got such a high from writing for print, my heart coveted another vocation.


Flash forward a couple years. I was producing the 6 P.M. news in Lexington, KY, listening to police scanners, reading wires and developing breakouts to flesh out the lead story. It was flashy journalism, writing to moving pictures and soundbites, but I was still getting to tell a story.

Even if they were in 25 second fragments.

I started noticing changes six years ago.

We revamped the station website, and suddenly producers became responsible for not only managing newscasts, but posting stories online. AP wire copy or internally generated pieces, we were instructed to get content on the web as often as possible. The sense of urgency regarding the internet wasn't there yet in my shop (hell, some folks in the newsroom outright refused to post their stories online), but we knew it was something we ought to stick with to see where it went.

There were no web content producers in Lexington, KY as far back as six years ago.

A couple years later, I made my way to a Cincinnati TV station. The newsroom had web content producers and began streaming newscasts live online. All the while, stations across the country started losing revenue to the great unknown - online news.

It wasn't enough to compete against the shop across the street, or the 100 other stations on cable/satellite, we were now vying for viewers who had the chance catch all of their news from a computer.

Over time, some newsrooms started struggling with the growing behemoth of online news. Losing advertising revenue (this was years before the current economic crisis), many newsrooms started downsizing. There was talk of some stations cancelling newscasts.

It was like a womb painfully stretching to accommodate the evolution and growth of its progeny.

Sometimes progress hurts in the short term, but it forces us to adapt and develop the tools needed to face the future.

I don't know if the same analogy applies to the massive layoffs that unfolded at the Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday and today, but I am really trying to find the glass-half-full in all of this.

The city's biggest news operation lost some good journalists this week, people who wanted to tell stories for a living.

From one journalist to another, I hope they continue telling stories.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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