U.S. Newspaper cutbacks erase 40 years of gains

TOKYO – Sometimes pictures really are worth a thousand words.  At year’s end, a dramatic chart published by Silicon Alley Insider was shared by email among journalists and former journalists showing just how much the newspaper industry has shrunk in the past decade.

Newspaper Employees.gifThe graph measures newspaper employment, showing a steadily upward curve from 1947, when 230,000 people were employed at U.S. newspapers.

The curve peaks in 1990 at almost double that number – just over 450,000 jobs at U.S. newspapers.

Then the decline starts, gradually at first: By 2000, the line dips below 400,000 jobs.

But in this decade, the line plunges. In 2009 newspaper jobs had fallen to 270,000 – a loss of one-third of the jobs in nine years.

Unless there is an unexpected reversal of the trend, by the end of 2010 we could see newspaper jobs fall to the level of 1947.

Of course, in 1947 newspapers had large numbers of people in jobs that no longer exist – remember rewrite desks, or typesetters? – so the number of reporters and editors may not have fallen to the 1947 levels.

But the steep decline of this decade, as it continues into 2010, is one measure of how journalism is changing in the U.S.