To Sara Lyle newspapers are, well, "kind of archaic."
The recent journalism graduate from the University of Florida now
works at CPNet.com - an online college news service in Miami.
She's making far more money then she could as a starting print
reporter or even as an editorial assistant at a magazine. As for
traditional newspaper writing, which used to offer just the facts in
an "inverted-pyramid style," Ms. Lyle finds it "completely
"I enjoy getting my news in story form and that's not a story to
me," she says. "That's just throwing facts at a wall and hoping some
of them stick."
Lyle reflects a fundamental shift in the public's attitudes about
the media. The Internet has accelerated the redefinition of what the
public - especially the young - considers important, even considers
what is news. The multidimensional nature of the Web - where
familiar text and still photos collide with exotic hyperlinks, audio
bites, and streaming video - plays into the melding of entertainment
That's creating a crisis of sorts in print newsrooms around the
country, because fewer people are interested in traditional
journalism as a career. Throughout the early 1990s, the numbers of
students going into journalism have declined, according to a survey
conducted by the University of Georgia. While those numbers began to
pick up a few years ago, they still lag behind their 1989 peak when
145,781 undergraduate students were in schools of communications.
These statistics track with the number of college students
interested in what has been called "hard news." In 1966, for
instance, a survey of the nation's college freshmen found that 57.8
percent believed that "keeping up to date with political affairs" is
"very important" or an "essential life goal." In 1998, that dropped
to a record low of 25.9 percent, according to the University of
California at Los Angeles's Higher Education Research Institute.
Even those students who do enter journalism and communications
programs at universities are less interested in news. In 1986, the
majority of communications students majored in traditional news
editorial writing, with advertising, public relations, and
broadcasting pulling up the rear. In 1997, the top category is
"other," with news editorial dropping to fourth place, just slightly
ahead of advertising. "Other" includes combined PR and advertising
specialties, but also the new online services.
Some of the student shift to the "new" media can be explained by
the creative challenge of writing for the Web. Not only does
information have to be conveyed well, but a Web writer also taps all
of the Internet's resources and includes video soundbites, timelines,
and info-graphics, as well as links to archives and related Web