Physical Science Blog

The Irony of the Apartment Search

How Craig's List both helps and hurts a budding journalist

September 1, 2006

Am I contributing to the notion of the struggling journalist?

This may sound like an odd question coming from someone who is pursuing a master’s degree in journalism, because academically, I believe I’m making all the right moves to secure a job once graduate school is finished. Rather, it was a recent decision in my personal life that raises such a question.

Since I live about two and a half hours from NYU’s campus, commuting from home didn’t seem like a viable option. I needed a new place to live. When I asked my friends what I should do as far as looking for that first apartment, there was an almost unanimous response: Craig’s List.

Not to give the website too much free publicity (it doesn’t need it), but Craig’s List does help a lot of people find apartments or roommates to meet their specific needs. It’s truly changing the way we hunt for our first apartments. How did we ever manage to find apartments before Craig’s List? We did it the old-fashioned way, I suppose: We looked at the classified ads in the newspaper.

Newspapers rely on ad revenue to fund their operations and therefore pay their employees. If there isn’t as much as revenue, there aren’t as many jobs to go around. So a site like Craig’s List is definitely not helping the situation, and what’s making it worse is that I realize I’m contributing to the problem my journalist friends have of not being able to find decent paying first jobs.

When my friend brought this to my attention, I felt extremely guilty at first (though I had to laugh at the irony of my particular situation, since I’m not just a graduate student, but a journalism graduate student). But it didn’t take long before something occurred to me. I’m living in the age of convergence, where a newspaper’s website is just as important, if not more so, than the print version. People still want to get their news, whether it’s thirty inches in the New York Times or two inches on the screen of a cell phone. The internet is changing how we get our news, so guess what? We still need people to report that news.

To address my original question: Something like Craig’s List is unquestionably affecting newspaper funding, but just as the apartment search has changed, so has the journalism job search. I’ll probably always hear about the struggling journalist, but as long as new journalists understand that journalism doesn’t begin and end with a newspaper, it doesn’t have to be as big of a problem.

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About the Author

“You’ll find I’m full of surprises.” Through Scienceline, Ben Leach hopes that you will discover a side of him that is passionate about reporting on science, especially health and medicine, and interest that stems from his academic, professional, and personal experience. Now that he’s done the obligatory serious stuff, he can mention that he’s also an aspiring playwright, a pop culture addict, and an extremely serious collector of all things, especially toys, related to the 1980’s.

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