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The Murray State News

The Murray State News

The Murray State News

Our View: People Over Profit: Everyone Loses When News Outlets Downsize

Jill Smith

This year,  journalism has joined among a growing list of once-stable industries experiencing a series of shocking mass layoffs across the country. With this problem already pronounced at the local level where communities should rely on day-to-day coverage, seeing this same effect on mirrored at long-standing newspapers and magazines like The LA Times, Sports Illustrated and even The Wall Street Journal begs a hard question on the precarious future of journalism: Who—if anyone—wins when you price profit over people? 

It’s no secret that journalism has stiff competition with social media in regaining public attention and value. In a post-covid world where news fatigue and misinformation are high in most readers (even us writers), redefining trust and authenticity is an ongoing battle: one that translates into numbers. Less subscribers equals less money, but when news outlets trims off writers, there’s a bigger cost than just an empty desk. Reporters build relationships within the communities they write for, and those connections power their stories. While you may not be able to put a market value on relationships, you can certainly read the difference in quality. Even the most in-depth reporting can feel only skin-deep without the opportunity to invest in more human, authentic connections.

These layoffs also force those left behind to adapt into a multimedia role, oftentimes without the same expertise as one who previously specialized in it. On one hand, this creates the opportunity to become a more versatile journalist; on the other, it also creates a more cautious one. That same caution also keeps many reporters from the very stories they ought to tell the most. 

The harsh realities of bureaucracy and reporting also leaves a chilling effect on future journalists. For some, the effects of disinterest and COVID have whittled our hometown papers down to the last page. Ten years from now, they may not even exist, leaving news deserts in their wake. And it will be hard to sell new writers to take on roles that lack the same sense of security.

For others, this new perspective has brought with it insecurity and anxiety. Students take up other majors like creative writing or public relations as more marketable contingency plans, forcing journalism degrees to take a back seat. And while student journalism has its renaissance, let’s not forget—we all graduate someday. 

So, what comes next? How do we find a way to fund an industry dedicated to informing the people without sacrificing the storytellers that power it? 

Part of the answer is trust. We have to convince folks their stories are worth investing in again, and us by extension— because we can help authentically capture them.

Despite the layoffs from legacy newspapers and magazines, nonprofit news is growing. As philanthropies and public funders continue to create news initiatives dedicated to local journalism, they operate on a standard of transparency—an effort that does not go unnoticed. That trust powers local newsrooms like The Murray Sentinel and The Kentucky Lantern.  By centering people in both the process and the finished article, we affirm not only our communities, but the people in them. 

It’s hard to place a price tag on a community. But in the end, it may also be the very thing that saves us. 

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About the Contributors
Scottlynn Ballard, Contributing writer
Jill Smith
Jill Smith, Co-Editor In Chief/News Editor
Jillian Smith is Co-EIC and News Editor at The News. Smith is a graduate student pursuing a Masters of Science in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. Smith is also a Graduate Assistant in Student Affairs. Beyond working and class, Smith enjoys reading, coffee, and listening to music.

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