As layoffs become more common in media, student journalists begin to worry about their future

The office of The Daily Californian Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Isabella Martinez & Anya Weller

The University of Miami is in the top 10% of colleges in America for communication and journalism, making it a hot spot for high achieving students. As students have traveled across the world for an opportunity to study at the U, the recent layoffs and cuts in world-renowned news organizations have shaken students as they are looking to life after graduation.

“I think it’s a bit daunting thinking about post-grad life, because thinking about how competitive the job market for journalism is there’s a bit of tension when looking into if this is a sustainable career choice,” Darrel Creary, a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and political science, said.

Creary is not the only student at UM who is doubting the sustainability of journalism as a future career. Some have even taken steps away from journalism due to the limited number of students who turn into full-time professionals in the industry.

Thalia Vlahos arrived at UM as a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism; however, after a year and a half with the major, she decided to move towards advertising.

“I loved journalism and broadcasting, and it’s still a passion project of mine. The journalism community is so strong at UM, and with my participation in UMTV I still have a strong tie to journalism, but it didn’t make sense for me in the long run. It’s a demanding profession with little to no recognition and it can be extremely difficult to get a job, and it’s just getting harder now,” said Vlahos.

In Jan. 2024 alone, over 500 journalists were laid off. Many of these writers are employed by major newspapers, such as the New York Times and The Washington Post. The layoff has not only caused financial instability for journalists, but has decreased the amount of people working on a story at a given time. Inevitably, this affects the quality of journalism.

“The newsrooms were always these symphonies where, you know, you had these great writers, and all these people came together and made this beautiful work,” Patrick Farrell, a Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist for the Miami Herald and a part time faculty and the University of Miami’s School of Communication, said.

In the last month, Sports Illustrated has announced that they are laying off 100 staff, NBC News has eliminated 75 jobs, and the LA Times has cut their staff by 20%. This is just the beginning. According to a study published by Northwestern University, one third of the U.S’s newspapers and two thirds of its journalists have been lost since 2005.

“Newspapers and journalism in general are not supposed to be a money-making endeavor. It is supposed to be for the wellbeing of society,” said Hiram Henriquez, a two-time Pulitzer prize winning for Team Reporting and lecturer at the University of Miami’s School of Communication.

Students like Vlahos are making these adjustments in their academic lives in order to have other potential careers in the media regardless of whether or not a future in journalism is possible

“Moving to advertisement doesn’t feel like something I had to do but it was just another way for me to continue expressing my creativity in the media,” said Vlahos. “I constantly use my knowledge in journalism in my new field of study. But I also didn’t completely let go of broadcasting, instead I declared broadcast journalism as my minor.”

Although Creary continues as a broadcast major, he has made sure to specialize his studies in several valuable ways.

“Since I’m pursuing videography, I have the added protection of my branch of creativity. Weaving a story through video is something software, at least for now, simply cannot do. Only humans know what we need to see to grab our attention to something, and videographers have the element to balance everything out,” Creary said.

An additional circumstance that has many weary of the future of journalism is the use of artificial intelligence and the possibility that it may soon take away the limited jobs for many in the media.

“Media corporations that lay off their writers in favor of including more AI models will see these repercussions eventually, but for now, script writers and print journalists are the ones at the highest level of risk,” said Creary.

“We’re essentially moving towards dehumanizing stories for profit. Having a human element to connect audiences through emotion and sympathy is the only thing that can connect us to stories distant from us.”

These developing concerns from journalism students come from the current headlines regarding journalist layoffs.

The journalism industry is no longer seen as a public service. This is caused by the owners of newspapers who have put their companies in the stock market with profit percentage objectives.

“What happens with that is that you’ve got to make your stockholders happy, you’ve got to show a good profit. The only way they are hitting those targets is not that they are selling a lot more papers or more advertising, they are cutting staff,” said Henriquez.

Many experts say that revenue is driving the recent surge in journalist layoffs. The increasing number of apps that display news has made the journalism industry far more competitive. As a result, newspapers such as the New York Times are making significantly less revenue from advertisements.

“Where is the revenue going to come from? I’m certain that’s what triggered it. These companies are owned by big corporations that want to make money. I don’t know if they’re really in it for the consumer as much as they’re in it for the profits,” said Farrell.

Although this cut in writers at distinguished organizations concerns working journalists and students, some are trying to see the positives with this new dynamic.

“When I was working all those years, somebody was giving me assignments and I went out and did them. Now, writers can be more creative,” said Farrell.

Journalists often write for multiple publications, giving them more creative freedom.

“I didn’t have the luxury to actually pursue my interests and the stories I wanted to do. And so that’s a benefit to me. In this generation, if you can figure out the revenue stream, you can do the stories you want to do,” said Farrell.

Even with these hardships on the cover of every news outlet, students at UM believe that the art of journalism is not lost and instead are finding ways to have a secure future while continuing to follow their passions.

“The success stories of UM students before us mean everything to me, and I feel privileged to go to a school with top-notch resources,” said Creary. “I just feel that listening to professors and pushing ourselves into the right spaces will be the final mark to determine if we can stand on solid ground in the job market or can become adaptable to anything that can come our way.”