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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: Now hiring: newspapers

By Tom Warhover
September 3, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

Nate Birt is the news and online editor of the Boonville Daily News.  Katie Fretland works for the Chicago News Cooperative. Matt Harris is a reporter in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

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You saw their bylines in the Missourian not so long ago.

Derek Kravitz and Allison Ross report from Post to Post. He’s covering Dulles and Reagan National airports, among other things, for The Washington Post, while she is writing about business at the Palm Beach newspaper.

In ’07, they were covering crime and faith beats right here in Columbia.

I found out about dozens more former Missourian-ites from a list compiled by Missouri School of Journalism Associate Dean Brian Brooks.

The headline: An overwhelming number of journalism graduates are working in journalism.

Of the 62 '08 graduates who emphasized in newspaper journalism:

•    Five people couldn’t be tracked down.

•    Six were still students, in law or other advanced studies.

•    One was a Vista volunteer.

•    Eight worked in other fields: high school teacher, publicity coordinator, law clerk.

That leaves 42 graduates making their livings as reporters and copy editors, as designers and Web producers.

(The picture is similarly bright for graduates in strategic communications, photojournalism, magazine and broadcast areas.)

I know – that’s the way it’s supposed to work, right?

But ask Brooks one of the most common questions he gets from prospective students and their parents, and you’ll hear a different story.

When the topic of the newspaper comes up, the response goes something like this: "But I thought newspapers are dying. Why would I want my daughter/son to be in a career that is?"

Tell people you work for a newspaper, and it’s like they’re suddenly at a wake: Condolences offered in soft tones. I haven’t been hugged yet, or patted on the back, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Newspapers, narrowly defined as a print product thrown on your doorstep, have been struggling. There’s no doubt.

But newspapers, defined more broadly as a source for information and conversation, will be around for a long, long time in many formats (including print).

Lindsay Wilkes-Edrington is on the ’07-08 graduates list. She left MU for a job at Patch.com, which this month announced the start-up of its 100th online community newspaper.

Editors at Patch cover council meetings and elections, write features, make Twitter posts about interesting news of the day, hire freelancers and edit their work, take in reader-submitted photos and articles – all the things I did at a small weekly newspaper a few decades ago.

There are plans for 500 more Patch-owned community newspapers by year’s end.  In February 2009 there were three.

Does that sound like a dying industry to you?