Online publications draw print journalists

Peter Frost

Journalists across the nation are abandoning print publications for the burgeoning — and highly prosperous — possibilities of online information sources.
So far, lucrative, high-paying Web sites have lured countless journalism school graduates, as well as veteran journalists from major publications across the nation.
Recently, the two major Twin Cities newspapers have experienced varying degrees of departures to Internet-based companies.
“Newspapers are feeling tremendous pressure as a result of online enterprises hiring away reporters and people that are proficient in design,” said Pam Fine, managing editor of the Star Tribune.
Fine said although the Star Tribune’s newsroom has not experienced an exodus for online services, the paper’s online department recently lost a number of employees to larger Web-based news sources.
“I don’t think it’s been particularly acute for the Star Tribune, but there have been cases in which people have left the company to pursue online jobs,” Fine said.
Many of the new positions attracting journalists are in Internet start-up companies.
E-companies like CNN.com, Business.com and Beautyscene.com lure seasoned journalists from respected publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Elle magazine with big bucks and stock options.
Although Internet-exclusive businesses attract a large number of journalists, print publications also attempt to draw employees into the online sector for their respective Web sites.
The necessity of keeping skilled online employees is a top priority for most large-circulation newspapers.
“It’s important to keep in mind that we want our own people to be Web and online savvy,” Fine said.
To do this, traditional newspapers with online counterparts must offer similar opportunities and high pay for online expertise.
“Generally speaking, for a young editor in publishing, I definitely wouldn’t be doing as well (in print) as I am on the Internet,” said Aaron Osterby, an MSP Communications online producer.
Osterby, a University alumnus, started at the Star Tribune Online, and later became a reporter in New Mexico before accepting his current position.
“To be quite frank, when you have (computer) programming experience on your rÇsumÇ, you’re going to have a noticeable salary increase compared to a regular staff writer or editor,” he said.
Osterby said there is a wealth of opportunity in the Internet industry for young journalists, with a large demand for experienced editors and designers.
Niles Randolph, a senior journalism major at the University of St. Thomas and part-time online night editor at Pioneer Planet, the Pioneer Press’ online newspaper, also sees opportunity in the online sector.
“It improves the chance for me to quicken my career and work for a big paper,” Randolph said.
Randolph said the excitement of breaking news and the minute-to-minute deadlines of the Internet are appealing.
He also said higher salaries played into his career choice.
“You look at print publications, and reporters make next to nothing, but in online, there’s much more opportunity as far as money is concerned,” Randolph said.
He estimates that the average starting online editor makes $5,000 to $10,000 more than a beginning reporter.
But Andy Wallmeyer, a University of Wisconsin-Madison senior and managing editor of The Daily Cardinal, said it’s more than just money that lures him to the occupation.
“If I was really into the money, I would go somewhere else,” Wallmeyer said, referring to a career in online journalism.
“For me, it’s pretty simple. Journalism is primarily a way to tell stories,” Wallmeyer said. “You want to inform as many people as possible, and if you see that as a primary goal, the Internet is the answer. And that’s all that should matter.”

Peter Frost covers business and welcomes comments at [email protected]