It's rare that a day passes in which I don't read of cutbacks in the news business. The most recent: Publishing behemoth Time Inc. eliminated 600 jobs from among its constellation of magazines; starting the week of Thanksgiving the company's namesake Time will sever 20 from an already scaled-back newsroom. Over at U.S. News-not even five months after announcing its reorganization as a biweekly-the 75-year-old magazine now plans to publish just once a month. This comes after a round of layoffs and pay cuts earlier this year failed to stop the bleeding. It's an accelerating and industry-wide trend. Over the past three years, according to the Pew-funded Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), three-quarters of 100,000-plus-circulation newspapers have cut reporting resources 10 percent to 30 percent.
"Here's the basic challenge for newspeople," the PEJ concluded this summer. "Somehow they must reinvent their profession and their business model at the same time they are cutting back on their reporting and resources." Howard Weaver, the top news executive at the McClatchy Company, America's third-largest newspaper publisher, summed up the challenge this way: "It's like changing the oil in your car while you're driving down the freeway."
As I see it, large corporate publishers irrationally expect their proverbial cars to keep humming down the freeway while their executives litter the pavement by pitching out crucial engine parts.
Clearly, what we're seeing is an alarming retreat from hard, factual, truth-telling news reporting-with little more than commentary and opinion filling the void. That was on abundant display in the presidential campaign coverage. I agree with the Newsweek veteran who observed after the magazine's deep newsroom purge this spring: "Talk is cheap and reporting is expensive."
And yet, reporting is WORLD's calling. Because we believe that objective truth is discoverable, we are passionate about the power of good journalism to shape worldview. Here is where passion meets opportunity: While large corporate publishers close news bureaus, I see opportunity for independent, nonprofit publishers such as WORLD to build them. As corporate publishers scale back newsrooms, I see opportunity for us to expand them. As corporate publishers lay off reporters, I see opportunity for us to hire them.
It takes vision but it also takes modesty and patience, as well as resources. So I'm asking: Would you prayerfully consider supporting WORLD's plans for expansion?
We begin with the modest establishment of a First Job Fund, which we would use to hire and mentor young journalists who are trained academically but need that first job to hone their skills and develop the discipline required of great journalists. The goal is that they learn while they earn. Right away, these First Job Fund reporters would multiply the efforts of our veteran reporters and editors. You would see the results not only in the pages of WORLD; our team would also publish daily on worldmag.com-pushing more and more original reporting into the national conversation and, ultimately, attracting a wider audience with an even more compelling editorial product.
I mentioned patience. The First Job Fund is a three-year program. It would not be an internship; it would be a real job with real responsibility and real accountability. Our vision is to grow circulation and revenues as we grow our news gathering corps. I estimate our First Job Fund will need $250,000 a year to help us bring along about a half dozen young journalists with the resources to do their jobs.
WORLD's circulation is 125,000, which makes the math simple. If 1 percent of our subscribers were willing to be "WORLD Movers" and could give an average of $200, we would have Year One covered. As Joel Belz mentioned in Boldly forward, we're praying for 25 who can commit to $5,000 a year for three years, which lightens the load by half. We will be grateful for whatever size check you could write. There's an envelope for it in the fold of the magazine, and my email address is below if you want to talk further.