Journalists Ditch the Newspaper: Why SPJ Went Digital

Keeping time, costs, and its industry's future workforce in mind, the Society of Professional Journalists decided to stop a print edition of its annual conference newspaper.

It’s sad, but true: The print newspaper industry is in a decline. Statistics from the Newspaper Association of America show that the advertising for print editions declined by nearly 30 percent in 2009, and since then has seen between an 8 and 9 percent decrease annually. Another depressing note? The industry as a whole has shrunk more than 40 percent in the last decade alone.

But what happens when an association that champions print and digital journalism decides that printing its own conference newspaper might not be worth it?

Take a look at the Society of Professional Journalists, which recently decided to cut a printed newspaper at its annual conference. While the Working Press will no longer be printed, it will remain a competitive internship program for 12 students chosen to cover the annual convention. However, the news they gather will now be delivered via online and social media channels.

The reasoning is one that many newspapers have undoubtedly heard before: “The time, energy, and costs associated with printing a daily journal for just three days have expanded to a point that we had to take a serious look at the cost-benefit ratio,” president Sonny Albarado wrote in a synopsis of a recent meeting on his blog.

Though it may sound surprising that SPJ would cut this print edition, one of its justifications for doing so was in the interests of its student-heavy staff. The publication will now offer them more opportunities to build news-gathering skills in new digital formats, which SPJ thinks are necessary to learn as they prepare to enter the workplace.

“While there remains a need for designers and other ‘production’ workers,” Albarado explained, “we felt the more valuable experience would for students would be in honing their online and video production skills along with their reporting and writing skills.”

As associations work to ensure their industry’s next-generation workers have the skills to do the job, can they balance tradition with innovation?


Chloe Thompson

By Chloe Thompson

Chloe Thompson is a contributing writer to Associations Now. MORE

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