Josh Merkin|Sep 15, 2015

Journalism jobs are down, but it’s a shrinking “middle class” that is creating the most angst.

The American Society of News Editors and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University recently released the 2015 Newspaper Census, and not surprisingly it showed that overall newsroom employment declined 10.4 percent.

However, a closer look reveals an interesting trend that has potentially a far reaching impact.

Newspapers with daily circulations between 250,000 and 500,000 and those with circulations under 5,000 actually increased their employees. Mid-size newspapers (those with circulations between 100,000 and 250,000) are the ones being left out in the cold, dropping 21.58 percent of employees over the last year.

Justin Fox, a columnist with Bloomberg, wrote an interesting piece based on this data hypothesizing the demise of the midsize newspaper is coming because the business model doesn’t work. If true, this would be a tremendous loss to the public who rely on these newspapers to learn and understand what is going on in their communities – from government budgets and education issues, to community heroes and their favorite recipes.

Unfortunately, the shrinking of the midsize paper has already started. Over the last several years, we’ve seen reporter beats get consolidated or eliminated altogether, and senior journalists with years of experience but higher pay checks be given a pink slip.

As Fox says, there are so many different places for people to obtain their news now that a majority of the public may not even worry about this potential change. But they should.

While national news certainly is important, the majority of what actually most impacts your life happens right outside your window. With no reporters acting as a conduit to those stories, being informed is that much more difficult.

Major wire services and digital media will always cover the big stories in mid-size cities, while community newspapers will maintain their monopoly on the really localized stories. However, that leaves a gigantic hole that cannot be easily filled.

As a PR professional and self-proclaimed news junkie, I hope Fox’s prediction is wrong, but in the meantime I’ll keep reading the Miami Herald and keeping a candle lit for the reporters in the middle.


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