AJR  Letters
From AJR,   April/May 2009

Life After Journalism   

By Unknown

After reading several articles about journalists suddenly thrown out of work, I thought maybe the way journalism can move forward is to look backward. I would suggest that out-of-work journalists look into buying or starting a small news-paper in some unserved town. With modern technology, it's not that hard, nor is it very expensive. With desktop publishing, digital cameras and a small office, anyone can start a newspaper for about $25,000 in equipment costs.

If you run a good, honest publication, you can look forward to $100,000 to $150,000 per year in gross revenue.

And you can help preserve one of the linchpins of American democracy. I know this because I've done it. I fled the city of St. Louis more than 10 years ago (along with a safe, lucrative, union-protected job at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) and bought a weekly newspaper in one of the most remote parts of Colorado a town of 600 in a county with a population of 1,600 (622 households).

But I believe this can be done in any small town or suburb.

Now, you might not be the sole source of local news there's the blogs, tweeters and independents but you may well be the only journalist.

The nation hasn't reached a tipping point where blogs carry more credibility than newspapers, but we're getting there.

The big newspapers and chains are not going to win this battle. Look at any big city newspaper, and you're going to find this: 70 to 80 percent advertising, and the remaining newshole filled with at least half wire stories and photos.

You'll see very little local coverage.

But go out into the suburbs and the larger towns surrounding the big city, and you'll find thriving publications of all sorts.

They've all got their own stamp of individuality because by and large, they're locally owned and operated. They don't see the need to have a bureau in Washington parroting the New York Times, or a bureau in the state capital. Many are mom and pop operations that show up at the local science fair and the high school district playoffs, and they produce something with which the nearby big boys cannot compete.

Perhaps the responsibility of being one of the pillars of democracy can be better carried on through small, local papers than by the dinosaurs that are the big city papers. I live in an economically depressed county whose population is so dispersed that it qualifies as "frontier" under Census Bureau definitions.

The population is falling, yet my circulation has increased every year I've operated here.

Running a small newspaper is an option for all you journalists who suspect you can do this.

By sticking to your career choice and doing it well, you may help save the profession.

And if you own the place, you can't be fired.

Jim Dustin


Jackson County Star

Walden, Colorado