Modern technology is disrupting many industries, including news. Today (Monday), the Salt Lake Tribune announced it was eliminating 34 of its 90 newsroom staff. This isn't the first time they have downsized. It ma not be the last. I love reading a print newspaper in the morning, but I'm one of the few diehards left in the valley. Advertising revenue for the Trib is down 40% in two years and circulation has dropped from 85,000 to 31,000 in four years.
I've witnessed massive change in regional and local science reporting during my career. When I began as a professor 23 years ago, most reporters I interacted with were science specialists or reporters. This was true for television as well as print. Television suffered first. Instead of science specialists, I mostly interact today with general reporters or camera people, the latter with a list of questions handed to them by a supervisor. Science is complicated. Reporting science is a specialized talent. Unfortunately, regional and local science specialists appear to be going the way of the dinosaur.
I've been interviewed by many Salt Lake Tribune editors and reporters over the years including Judy Fayhs (now with KUER), Jennifer Nappier-Pierce, Brian Maffly, George Pyle, Mike Gorrell, and Emma Penrod. All are consummate professionals. If you think reporting is easy, let me assure you that it is not. I recall giving some terrible interviews that somehow contributed to great articles. That takes talent.
Sadly, these layoffs are the continuation of a downward spiral. Let us hope that digital media develops in a way that turns things around. There are some bright sides to digitalization of news media. In my area, the Capital Weather Gang is one such bright side, providing outstanding weather and climate reporting, much of it by meteorologists.
I don't envision paper newspapers arriving in my driveway for much longer. Let us hope that some great digital science reporting on our region is in our future. There are many great stories to tell.