An Historical Anomaly?
That's a phrase from Lawerence Wright's informative article in the June 1 New Yorker (the one with the cover painted on an iPhone) about Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who loaned the New York Times $250 million at 14 percent interest. What Wright describes, in passing, as an anomaly was the market position of newspapers from the 1970's into the 90's, which just happens to coincide wiht the bulk of my own journalistic career. According to Wright, that was a golden age, economically. The business became lucrative, fancy office towers were built, and "reporters were paid a reasonable wage, which was also unprecedented."
I'm sure publishers' associations have already amassed statistics on these matters. But if what Wright says is true, then the laments about the current perilous staste of newspaper employment may need modifcation. Maybe being a newspaperperson, as on the Internet today, is inherently a dicey proposition when it comes to buying a home and raising a family. We tend to think of the present as a great fall from a lofty height that previously defined the lot of the reporter/critic stretching back into time. But maybe newspaper employment has rarely been secure, and the current instability, not to say desperation, is the historical norm. Scary, maybe exaggerated, but thought-provoking.