CityBeat's Art & Culture Editor on Why She Got Into Journalism in Today's Print Climate

Two years younger than CityBeat, A&C editor Mackenzie Manley reflects on why she decided to go into print journalism

click to enlarge Baby Mackenzie, not yet capable of reading CityBeat issues.
Baby Mackenzie, not yet capable of reading CityBeat issues.
My entire lifespan has been a witness to the decline of traditional print media. I was born the same year as Craigslist went live — 1996. And while many in the decades since have blamed the site for snatching away classified ad revenue — newspapers’ most reliable cash cow — and thusly shuttering papers, it’s more complicated than that. In the age of dot-coms, it was inevitable.

Algorithms twist news feeds. Traditional dailies and newer online sites — like Huffington Post, Vox, Vice and Buzzfeed — compete for clicks in a world that feels hungry for news but doesn’t want the cost. Everything is faster and more, more, more, except for actual staffroom numbers.

I’ve often been asked why I would enter a field that seems to be collectively running from an avalanche of problems. “Print media is a dying industry!” you say. “It’s on fire!” you gasp. Perhaps the field can best be personified through that cartoon of a dog sipping coffee while surrounded by flames. But frankly, the whole world feels that way. The climate crisis will likely ensnare most of my mid-adulthood. People everywhere are overworked, underpaid and treated poorly in the name of saving a dollar. Fake news is rampant. Natural resources are fast dwindling. We wade in an ocean of global inequalities — that’s also filled with trash. As a country, we are in wars we’ve forgotten we ever entered and mass killings have become the norm. I could go on...for pages.

My reply to the ever-asked question? I chose journalism because I love to write and see it as a vital aspect of a functioning democracy. Be it breaking news, pop culture analysis or niche features, communities — no matter what form they come in — need a space for what journalism provides. At its best, that work functions to inform audiences on topics in an ethical, meaningful way. It gives a platform to burgeoning artists, activists, businesses and more. In short, it creates a space for communities to connect and understand.

I’m 23, which makes me two years shy of CityBeat’s 25 years. You could measure my life in newsprint. Or, better yet, data. I’m too young to know what it feels like to be working in a thriving journalism industry. And, though I came of age with the internet and social media, I don’t have the answers for how to best tackle all the changes it unleashed. Except, well, Mark Zuckerberg can shove it. And for all the talk of today’s youth having short attention spans, loving fancy infographics and killing entire industries, an important point of discourse is often muddled in generational squabbles.

Journalism — in whatever form it takes in the coming decades — is very much needed to take on the plethora of complexities unfolding both in our own backyards and internationally. 

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