The Washington Post still lands on my 81-year-old grandmother's doorstep every morning. She bends down gingerly to pick it up, shuffles over to the kitchen table and pores over it with her magnifying glass. Though her vision and hearing have steadily deteriorated, she still has an insatiable thirst to know what's going on. She can't drive anymore, or walk without assistance, or hear a sentence clearly the first time. But she'll grill you about the most recent Republican debate, and that moment of piercing acuity overrides her declining physical state. Right then and there, she's still sharp.
I start my mornings much differently. I peel my laptop off my desk and prop it against my thighs while laying in bed, scrolling through headlines, status updates, notifications, scooping up everything I missed while I was sleeping. News jets around the web at all times, and I'm not afforded the luxury of digesting it as a solid mass of ink and paper at my feet for three hours every morning. Instead, I race around the internet trying to catch it, scrambling to piece together the blurbs and chase down the facts before I head out the door.
Unlike many other students on secure paths toward more financially stable careers, I don't see a clear picture of my future as a print journalism major. Many hypothesize about how the industry will look in 10 years -- mostly digital, increasingly fast-paced -- but there's still a looming fear that this plan will not be realized. That with each defunct publication goes the dreams of a crop of aspiring journalists along with it. That, despite pouring my heart out into story after story, I'll be sitting in my childhood bedroom in two years, looking around at my preteen-era royal blue walls, wondering what's next. Stalled.
This doubt is partly fueled by my mother, who desperately pleads that I reconsider my major, or find a more stable career to "fall back on." When she hears about newspapers shutting down, she delivers the grim news to me in a way that only a mother can. That head tilt. Those eyes squinting with concern. I adamantly defend my career choice, but her worried tone stays with me.
Considering how intense journalism is on a day-to-day basis, this dramatic air of uncertainty almost seems fitting. Let's be honest; we're all kind of insane for loving such a stressful profession this much. Calling, panicking, scribbling -- it's as if we save newspapers every day by filling them with words. And now that plummeting readership and advertising revenues tell us these words aren't enough, how do we save the craft we work so hard for?
My generation holds a key advantage over veteran reporters in that social media is such an organic experience for us. Facebook defined our high school years and serves as a scrapbook of our college years, literally displaying timelines of our lives before our eyes. These websites tell the history of our adolescence. So it seems fitting that their role in our lives would graduate with us, serving as a harbinger of hope for a new era of journalism.
If we could marry our online expertise with the seasoned experience of established reporters, maybe we could bridge the age gap that dictates how people consume news, and head into the future certain that, young or old, people will want to know.