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Pencils Down 

Damn, this is a tough time to be a journalist.

This thought ran through my head as I sat in an Evanston, Ill., hotel room last Friday night (Aug. 15). At the time, I was posting a leaked memo from the Tucson Citizen at blog.tucsonweekly.com concerning the layoffs that are about to hit the afternoon daily and its joint business operation with the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Newspapers. You can read more in this week's Media Watch on Page 16, but the main point is that Gannett--the Citizen's parent company--is eliminating about 1,000 positions across the country, including 30 in Tucson.

Gannett is far from alone in this mess; numerous media companies have been cutting staff sizes in the wake of the seemingly perfect storm that's been hitting the newspaper world, combining declining advertising revenues thanks to the lackluster economy, a rise in newsprint costs fueled in part by higher gas prices, and a history of shortsighted decisions by some newspaper companies over the last decade to preserve short-term profits at the expense of long-term strategies.

I was in Evanston for the Alternative Journalism Writers Workshop, a two-day seminar put on by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN). The seminar corresponds with the tail end of the Academy for Alternative Journalism (AAJ), a summer program taking in 10 top student journalists from around the country that's designed to get more minority writers into the alternative press. The AAJ is a joint project of AAN and Northwestern University. (As a side note, two of the 10 AAJ students this summer were interns here at the Weekly last summer: Tess Martinez and Sam Stoker.)

At the workshop, I got the chance to talk to a good number of the AAJ students, all of whom are incredibly talented and motivated; they'd excel in most newsrooms across the country. Despite their credentials, some of these students are also bordering on freaking out right now, given the job prospects in the journalism world.

Damn, this is a tough time to be a journalist.

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