SEEKONK, Mass. As the slanting rays of the rising sun pierce through his venetian blinds, Ty Domeni scrolls through an article he’s just written, types three tic-tac-toe signs (#’s) at the bottom in observance of journalistic convention, and sends it on to his editor for review. “That’s it,” he says, anticipating that the copy he’s just turned in will mark the end of his career as a reporter for Flick Magazine, an on-line journal of politics, the arts and opinion.
Ty, in two-piece business pajama suit.
“God I’m going to miss this rag,” he says as he swings his legs off his bed, stands up, and heads to his kitchen to fix himself a bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats with milk. “I know times are changing, but this is the only life I know.”
Flick is shutting down, a victim of anemic on-line ad revenues, and as a result must lay off Domeni and its three other full-time reporters. “It’s tough,” says editor Phil McHugh. “How do you tell somebody who was getting paid in redeemable promotional points that next week they’ll be getting nothing, as opposed to next-to-nothing?”
The rush to escape the bricks-and-mortar world of print journalism when newspapers began to fail in large numbers touched off a classic case of too much supply and not enough demand, says Norbert Pfeiffer, professor of journalism at Washburn University in either Illinois or Indiana, I’m not sure which. “A lot of reporters flocked to on-line magazines or started their own, driving down ad rates,” he says. “I would say it was a perfect storm, but we tell our students not to use cliches, so I will just note that it created a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
” . . . and always use those little tic-tac-toe signs at the end of your ‘copy’. It looks professional.”
At News Griper, a satirical review of current events and personalities, publisher Mikal Oblomowitz says he was forced to switch back to a paper edition by angry parents of elementary school students. “How can we make papier-mache out of an on-line newspaper, they asked me,” he notes in exasperation. “Or some woman would subscribe to Martha Stewart and want something to put on the floor while she stenciled a chair.”
The revival of print media isn’t assured unless newspapers can find ways to cut costs, notes Pfeiffer. “One area where they could save money is fact checkers,” he notes as he peruses an article in this week’s National Enquirer linking Hillary Clinton to alien abductions in Roswell, New Mexico. “Once your readers have gotten used to reading blogs, accuracy can seem very expensive.”