Postcards from a Shrinking Newsroom

| 8/25/2008 12:44:25 PM

Empty bulletin boardLast week, Vin Crosbie, an outspoken critic of the so-called “digital revolution,” predicted that more than half of the nearly 1,500 daily newspapers in the United States “won't exist in print, e-paper, or Web site formats by the end of the next decade.”

As blogs take over print columns and advertisers study up on their HTML, the bricks and mortar of the physical newsroom are left in awkward limbo. Office work takes up less space than it did even 10 years ago, with computers that can slide through cracks in the sidewalk and rolodexes that amount to nothing more than pixels. Those lucky small-publications writers who haven’t yet been laid off are increasingly working from home, leaving behind decorated cubicles and monthly office birthday parties.Empty mailboxes

The Mother Jones website features graphic designer Martin Gee’s glimpse at one such dying newsroom, the San Jose Mercury News. Gee's photographs document a fluorescently lit ghost town, from its ever-blinking voicemail alerts to a graveyard of unplugged monitors. He captured the detritus of a shrinking staff from April to June 2008, when he was caught in a round of layoffs and left the paper. (View his entire "Reduction in Force" collection here.)

One must wonder how much hollow air our skyscrapers contain behind their mirrored windows, and if, in our age of continuous development, we might look toward existing space to get the job done.

Images courtesy of Martin Gee.

Vin Crosbie
8/26/2008 11:18:16 PM

Interesting, Emily! I didn't know that I was an "outspoken critic" of the digital revolution that I've spent the past 15 years working full-time to foment. Nor did I know that it was so-called. The article I wrote to which you referred was about the demise of printed newspapers mainly due to the choices of content that people now have access to online. Wouldn't that instead make me an outspoken critic of the pulped-wood revolution? Come sit in on my New Media graduate classes at Syracuse University this semester. Since you mentioned the subject of newsroom space, my journalism school last year opened a 72,000-sq. ft., four story facility devoted to digital journalism. Largest digital media teaching facility in the world. You'd like it. I do. Bring your ten-speed. You can park it next to mine in my office.

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