With the Tribune announcement this week that another 28 newsroom jobs are going by the wayside in Chicago, the trickling announcements of cutbacks has turned into a river.
Editor and Publisher magazine link is doing the newspaper industry – and its reading public – a service in now keeping a running tally.
That tally is 2000 job cuts this year alone. And it’s probably an undercount.
That number is low for several reasons. It includes announced job cuts, which means that at least two kinds of cuts are not noted. First, consider all those positions that newsrooms are just not filling, for now, with the now stretching out longer and longer. “Managing churn” has long been a core competency of top newsroom managers. It means managing your staff budget as if a number of positions are open. It used to mean that normal attrition would allow editors to manage how fast they hired to replace those who left for other jobs, or retired. Increasingly, it means, keeping a job in the budget but never filling it.
We don’t know the aggregate churn number in American newsrooms.
Secondly, we also don’t know about two jobs cuts here, four there, in medium- and small-sized papers across the country. Many of these papers, usually non-union, don’t have to make an announcement and often don’t.
Less definitive but worth looking at is the “I Want Media” site link, which tracks job cuts in all “media” and adds up 72,000 job cuts in the last five years.
In any case, the official numbers are historic and unprecedented. This is the biggest year for newsroom cutbacks at America’s dailies in recent memory. It looks like newsrooms have sustained a loss of almost 4% within one year. That from an industry that saw a peak in employment in 1990, a modest one of 56,400. By 2004, we’d seen a drop to 54,000 and now we’ve dipped below 52,000. Look for updated stats soon, collected by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, which surveys its members every December.