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Lynne Doncaster addresses crowd at Somerville News Garden event. Photo by Derek Kouyoumjian.
Lynne Doncaster addresses crowd at Somerville News Garden event. Photo by Derek Kouyoumjian.


Seeks more participation from Somerville residents


It has been nine months since DigBoston and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism partnered with the Somerville Media Center to organize an event asking Somervillians what kind of coverage was missing from their city’s remaining news media. The February 2019 Somerville Community Summit ultimately attracted 115 locals—many of whom were members or staff of 22 co-sponsoring civic organizations—to give powerful testimony to 15 professional journalists about six topic areas that they thought were getting short shrift. In an age when the consolidation of news media by a handful of giant corporations and the rise of digital media owned by another handful of big companies have done tremendous damage to local news production… in Somerville, and around the nation. Turning municipalities into what media researchers call “news deserts”—areas that no longer have professionally produced news outlets.


That first event was the result of the lived experience of my Dig and BINJ colleagues—Chris Faraone and John Loftus—and me over the nearly four years to that point during which we tried (with some success) to provide Boston-area communities with reportage that would otherwise be absent from the regional news ecology. We noticed local cities and towns having their newspapers of record (some of them over 100 years old) gobbled up by the huge media conglomerates, squeezed for profit, and then—often as not—discarded like so much refuse. Leaving Mass municipalities without the news that is the lifeblood of our democracy.


And we believed, as we still believe, that the more community news organizations that were forcibly shrunk to a fraction of their former capacity or shut down outright, the more that democracy is in danger.


So, we decided that it was important that we initiate a community organizing effort in the wake of the February summit to help Somerville rebuild its news infrastructure—strengthening the independent news outlets that remained, and possibly creating new news media to replace what was lost. All with the goal of helping a community talk to itself about issues of the day. In the way that it and communities around the nation had done for over two centuries since the founding of our republic.


As I said in my Dig editorial on the first event, Somerville Community Summit: Convening a City to Improve Its News Media, such a grassroots effort could not be primarily led by paid organizers from an organization like the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. The effort could be sparked by a group like BINJ, but its success or failure would lie with local volunteers who would either step forward to help improve news production in Somerville in their own interest… or not.


Which is why it has been great to see the positive response we’ve gotten to the community organizing campaign—the Somerville News Garden—that we launched via BINJ in late June. Twenty-five Somerville residents stepped up at the first meeting, and about 15 of those folks have become very active with the garden in the intervening months. With the result that the role of BINJ staff has started getting less central to the endeavor.


All to the good given that the news garden already has four projects in progress: the Somerville PR Wire that is almost ready to launch a volunteer-curated website that will put a feed of pitches and event listings from community members in front of all the area journalists interested in covering Somerville on a regular basis, a quarterly volunteer-run PR Clinic that will train Somervillians on how to talk to local journalists about issues and happenings they’d like to see covered, a Research Group that has just begun deploying its first survey instrument to Somerville residents to find out what kind of news they consume about the city and where they get it from, and a Neighborhood Media School that has already recruited educators to teach our first batch of inexpensive courses on journalism and news analysis starting this winter.


Everything the Somerville News Garden does is meant to be transparent and replicable. So whether our experiments succeed or fail, communities around the country will be able to follow our roadmap and create their own news gardens wherever a news desert is threatening democracy.


In that spirit, I am pleased to give a quick report about the news garden’s first public event—held last Saturday at the ever-fabulous and community-spirited club ONCE Somerville—Real News, Fake News, No News: Reviving Local Journalism in Somerville. But I’d like to set a precedent for truth-telling from the get-go. Because as both a journalist and a longtime labor and community activist, I have noted a tendency for otherwise well-meaning nonprofit community organizing efforts to ever and always “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative” when discussing their progress.


And I’ve stated previously that I don’t think it helps anyone—least of all people interested in duplicating our effort elsewhere—to hear nothing about the news garden but happy-talk of the the type too many nonprofits often aim at major funders. Due, in the main, to the fear of losing big donations by failing to succeed at every turn. An unrealistic expectation at the best of times.


As such, I will start by saying that I thought Real News, Fake News, No News was a qualified success. The main aims of the event were—having already solidified the commitment of the first group of Somerville News Garden volunteers—to attract more Somerville residents to become active with the effort, to provide some public education on the crisis in journalism at the national and local levels, to have a good discussion with community members about specific issues and happenings that they think need more coverage in area news media, and to let attendees be the first people to take our survey.


I think news garden volunteers had varying turnout targets on their minds as they put posters up around the city and activated various social networks, but I was hoping for 40-60 people—given that we knew in advance that some community activists would be working on the Nov 5 municipal elections and that Real News was happening on a nice sunny Saturday, Nov 2. 


We ended up with 42 participants. About 25 of whom were new. So that was good. Though not as good as we were hoping. We had enough people to have an acceptably large audience for the excellent presentations by Professor Gino Canella of Emerson College and lifelong Somerville resident and sometime journalist Lynne Doncaster (followed by some great comments by audience members who had worked with the Somerville Journal, Somerville News, and Somerville Times back in the day), and two breakout groups with nice conversations—led by Jane Regan of the newly revived Somerville Neighborhood News at Somerville Media Center—about “Headlines We’ve Never Seen” (resulting in several new article ideas for local journalists to cover). Which then ensured that a reasonable number of participants (led by our Research Group convener Leanne Fan) took our new Somerville Media Consumption Survey (which has already given us some great data and inspired us to start to disseminate the survey instrument widely around the city).


My concerns about the event, however, are twofold. First, although we did direct outreach to the same civic groups that turned out for the Somerville Community Summit, most of them did not respond to our call to attend the Real News event. Which makes sense. Because, a) we were reaching out to staff and active members of those groups who are already busy with their own work, and b) we did not have an audience of journalists on hand this time for those groups to pitch article ideas to. Lessening their desire to attend. But it’s going to be difficult to solve Somerville’s accelerating news crisis without active community groups involved. So the Somerville News Garden needs to find ways to partner with them going forward that are more obviously and directly beneficial to all sides.


Second, it’s hard to expect volunteers (no matter how committed) to handle community organizing campaigns—or serious public events like Real News—while going to school, holding down jobs, and taking care of kids and grandkids. The news garden has one paid staff person, me, attached to it from the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Yet, again, staff can never substitute for a growing number of engaged volunteers when it comes to organizing a community like Somerville to better talk to itself. Fortunately, news garden volunteers did indeed conceive of the Real News event basically from soup to nuts, and did much of the work to put it together. But I still had to step in and nudge things along from time to time. Something else we need to work on.


Now that the event is over and we have interest from over a dozen of the new attendees in starting to work with the news garden, everyone has to try hard to shore up the commitment of the initial volunteers, integrate the new volunteers, and make sure that all those folks can handle work on our four projects without everything devolving into a staff-driven endeavor. Which I think would be the end of the news garden initiative. Because staff-driven campaigns are all too often “astroturf” efforts (fake grassroots) rather than the actual grassroots efforts that are needed to effect long-lasting positive change at the community level.


Genuine community commitment will be critical if we’re going to do more public events in all of Somerville’s neighborhoods and get more buy-in from all the different populations that make up the city. Right now, the news garden is primarily reaching white, educated homeowners with a habit of reading newspapers—most of whom are older and have lived in Somerville for a long time. We need to reach younger people, immigrants, and a variety of other folks if the news garden is going to truly represent the community it’s aiming to assist. Each of those groups has different interests and consumes different kinds of news in different media. One solution on the journalism front will decidedly not fit all.


These are the challenges the Somerville News Garden currently faces. And at the end of the proverbial day, our new organization will only succeed if significant numbers of Somervillians think that local news is important enough to put volunteer time into saving. We’re getting a fine response in our first few months of organizing. But 42 people at a well-advertised public event is not 60 people. Or the 115 we got at the last February’s community summit. 


All of which is to say that Somerville residents reading this are cordially invited to join the Somerville News Garden and work with us to strengthen local journalism in the interest of democracy. Interested? Our email is Let’s talk.


Click here to sign up for Community Journalism Crash Course workshop sessions with journalist and educator Jane Regan at Somerville Media Center, Nov 12 or Nov 14.


Jason Pramas is executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston—and executive director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.



Have a connection for us? Drop us a line.


Regular readers will recall that my DigBoston colleagues, Chris Faraone and John Loftus, and I love to pull back the curtain on our operations now and again to give our audience a look at how an alternative weekly newspaper like ours runs. The better to connect with the communities we serve.


Over time, we’ve gradually covered all aspects of our operation in broad strokes… including advertising. But this week we thought it would be useful to return to that subject. Because although we’ve reviewed our driving need to sell more ads to grow and reach more people, we have not run through the many types of nonprofit and for-profit enterprises that we believe could benefit from partnering with our sales program.


It is no surprise that a general interest commercial news outlet will typically get advertising from businesses and institutions that relate to its regular beats. For example, we cover music and we get ads from music venues. It’s also no shock to most that print newspapers like ours cover beats that we rarely get ads from—like film and theater.


But we also get ads for products and services that we rarely cover. Say, jet skis and snowmobiles. Given that advertisers are sometimes more concerned about who our audience is than about the text that fills our pages.


However, too often they fail to read our media kit—which explains that we have a very diverse audience, most particularly by age group. Thus they may not realize that we serve more than one age bracket. The hot market for the enterprises that advertise in a big college town like Boston is typically young people, 18-30. And we have definitely have a lock on that audience. 


That said, we also have an older audience—people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s—who have been fans throughout the entire 21 years this paper has been publishing. So, just looking at our age demographics, one can see that there are all kinds of advertisers that could and should be working with us. Not at all times in every season. But for key periods every year. And our sales and executive staff spend a good deal of time thinking about what sectors those advertisers might come from.


We figure there’s no reason to keep such thinking to ourselves. Because we want such advertisers to know that we’re inviting them to talk to us. In planning this editorial, two types of enterprises that we think should be advertising in DigBoston sprang quickly to mind: community banks (especially credit unions and co-operative banks) and universities.


There are a number of reasons we think those two sectors are a natural fit. Both serve the community at large, as this newspaper does. Both serve young people, yes, but also older people—although the natural audience for universities skews younger and for banks skews older. Both need to reach this broad demographic basically at all times. But each sector also has unique advertising needs that we think can be well served by this newspaper.


Universities are constantly running special programming. Conferences, lectures, seminars, plays, concerts, and sporting events. Much of that programming is aimed at the general public. But not all media are specifically geared to attract that public to events. And very few outlets in the Boston area reach tens of thousands of young people around the city who seek them out to find those events every week. Virtually none are also considered tastemakers in their coverage of arts and entertainment. Risk takers who expressly seek out the experimental, the adventurous, and the bleeding edge—and put them in the public eye. DigBoston ticks off all those boxes.


Community banks are looking to advertise in news media that defend and valorize local lifeways. That honor established neighborhood institutions with proven track records of doing right by area residents while always seeking new and interesting additions to the social fabric of their precincts. Future institutions that good banks can nurture. This publication does that with aplomb.


So we’d like to ask readers who work for community banks and universities—or who have friends and family that do—to drop us a line with leads about banks and colleges that might be interested in advertising with us at There are many other potential sectors that we’re interested in working with. Readers that have connections to any advertiser that you think might be a good fit should also drop us a line.


We thank folks in advance for any leads you can give us. A community newspaper like ours can only survive and thrive with direct support from our audience. Which is why you should know that we will never take our loyal readers for granted.


Jason Pramas is executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston.



(Interested candidates, please read this whole editorial)


At DigBoston, we like to have a lot of interns working for us at all times. Particularly college journalism students who will soon be seeking jobs as full-time newspaper or magazine reporters. Prior to June, over the first couple of years after my partners Chris Faraone, John Loftus, and I acquired this paper, we had taken as many as eight at once. But when we didn’t find ourselves overwhelmed managing that many talented young people, we figured, “Why not take more?” So this summer we had 17 interns—16 reporters and one marketing specialist. Plus two more reporting interns working remotely who didn’t participate directly in our internship program.


That worked out very well. And we’d like to do the same thing this fall—which is why I’m writing this editorial. But I think it’s worth running through our rationale for wanting to host such a large group of aspiring journalists again before continuing to my pitch for new talent.


There is general agreement that there is a crisis in American journalism. And I write about it frequently in these pages. The old advertising-driven economic model for commercial news outlets is collapsing—helped along by the rise of digital media giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon—even as consolidation of remaining outlets by a shrinking number of giant media corporations is accelerating the downward slide of regular mass layoffs of journalists in advance of the shuttering of thus-hollowed-out newspapers and magazines on cost grounds. Nonprofit and cooperative economic models have not yet proved to be viable alternatives for struggling independent news operations. And public funding for journalism is not yet on the political table. 


The result of this unfortunate situation is nothing less than the gutting of American news media. According to an analysis by the Pew Research Center: “From 2008 to 2018, newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped by 25%. In 2008, about 114,000 newsroom employees—reporters, editors, photographers and videographers—worked in five industries that produce news: newspaper, radio, broadcast television, cable and ‘other information services’ (the best match for digital-native news publishers). By 2018, that number had declined to about 86,000, a loss of about 28,000 jobs.”


But the story is worst for print newsrooms—the very sector that many journalism students looking to intern with us are most interested to work in, and home to the longform reporting that all other media outlets rely on: “This decline in overall newsroom employment has been driven primarily by one sector: newspapers. The number of newspaper newsroom employees dropped by 47% between 2008 and 2018, from about 71,000 workers to 38,000.”


This is bad news indeed. For working journalists and aspiring journalists, yes, but also for our beleaguered democracy. Which relies on the “Fourth Estate”—journalism, broadly writ—to hold powerful individuals and institutions accountable to the will of the people on matters large and small. A democratic society no longer able to support a robust and (at least nominally) independent news sector, whatever it wants to call itself, will not remain a democracy for very long.


Yet journalism schools continue to pump out more trained journalists than in previous years, an effect partly explained as a “Trump bump” reaction to our polarizing president. According to a December 2018 survey of nearly 500 journalism and media educators in 45 states conducted by the Education Week Research Center in coordination with the Journalism Education Association, “student interest in journalism is growing or holding steady.”


On the one hand, it’s easy to feel like said schools are doing a disservice to journalism students, preparing many of them for reporter jobs that no longer exist. Plus it’s certainly true that too many corporatized colleges are more than happy to take advantage of any academic trend that results in more paying “customers.”


But on the other hand, our democracy needs more journalists—especially considering how many paid reporting jobs America has lost of late—not less. And failing to train the journalists we need is doing a disservice to that democracy.


Which is why DigBoston is so committed to running a large internship program. We strongly believe that America should remain (or truly become, given our broadly left-wing orientation) a democracy and that having more journalists in every city and town is one way to help ensure that outcome. 


However, we cannot yet afford to pay interns. We are by no means immune to the crisis in journalism, and inherited a newspaper that has needed to be gradually stabilized since 2017 before now being able to even start to think about expanding our operation. And eventually offer at least some paid internships. Allowing us to better meet our goal of always having the most diverse group of interns possible by every metric, including class. A goal we’re actually doing pretty well at reaching season to season thus far. Though we can always improve on that front.


So, interning with us means participating in a very open exchange. We ask reporting interns to work just a few hours a week—basically producing one article at a time—alongside jobs or other internships that do pay and school (although we also have some interns that are not currently in school). We let them start and finish their time with us whenever they want (a two-month stay being typical). We treat our interns as reporters. As “equals with less experience,” as I’ve long typified it. When they’re working with us, their article subjects do not know they are interns. We encourage them to pitch us stories they are interested to cover, and we also offer assignments to them as they come in. 


Reporting interns write for us as long as they like and leave us with good clips with an established newspaper for their resumes. Plus, and probably most importantly, they become part of our talent network—people we know and have worked with, and people we can recommend for jobs elsewhere, or maybe even hire ourselves one day. Every two weeks, we ask them to attend “pitch meetings” with Chris and me. If they can make those, great. If not, we can work around that. Most of the knowledge transfer between staff and interns takes place by working together.


And that’s the basic deal. We also have other kinds of interns from time to time, as mentioned in passing above. As such, if you’re a journalism student (or a marketing, graphic arts, photography, design, media studies, English, etc. student), and you’re interested to intern with us, we’d love to hear from you.


All candidates for fall internships can email Chris and me at with “INTERNSHIP APPLICATION” in the subject line. Please include a paragraph or two about why you’d like to intern with us and what kind of internship you’re interested in. Then add links to three clips (if you want to be a reporter, or three artworks/photos/designs if you want to work with us on the design side, or three marketing campaigns if you want to help us with that, or appropriate proof that you have skills in whatever other area you’d like to help us with), and a link to your resume. That’s it. No need to write long letters to us.


Our internship program is increasingly competitive, no lie. We don’t take all applicants. We are obviously looking for reporters more than other kinds of interns. But if you believe in our mission, love journalism and democracy, and have some skills to back up your aspirations, then you will have a good shot.


We look forward to your applications. Good luck.


Jason Pramas is executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston.


Earth held up by a human hand in space


Calls for regional consortium of news outlets to improve and expand climate change coverage


Last month, during the fearsome heat wave that saw Boston temperatures soar to 98 degrees Fahrenheit for two days in a row, 400 chickens died in New Hampshire.


According to the Boston Globe, they succumbed to “heatstroke at Vernon Family Farm in Newfields, N.H., around 5 p.m. Saturday when the temperature peaked and the farm could not save them…” The article went on to explain that temperatures got up to 90 degrees in Newfields that day. But chickens cannot take heat over 106 degrees. And, despite the best efforts of the farm staff to keep them cool, the birds expired. 


A New Hampshire Union Leader article provided more detail. Farm owner Jeremiah Vernon said that the heat index (a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature) on his farm just after 5 p.m. on July 20 when the chickens died was over 110 degrees—and added that another southern NH farm lost 300 chickens the same day. He also mentioned that “the farm has spent about $2,000 to buy generators and circulation fans to help prevent illness in the event of another summer heat wave.” Something he had obviously never had to consider over the farm’s previous 10 years of operation. Several of which were each the hottest years on record in turn worldwide.


As 2018 was. And 2019 may be. June was the hottest month on record. And then July was, too. Global average temperatures are continuing to climb. Month by month. Year by year. There is some fluctuation. Some cooler months and years. But only cooler relative to the ever-hotter new normal. The general trend is upward. And the speed of that climb is accelerating.


Even so, the death of hundreds of chickens from overheating was an unusual enough occurrence to be worth reporting in major New England newspapers. But apparently not alarming enough to mention the role that global warming is playing in increasing the number and severity of hot days summer by summer. Despite happening in the same month that the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a report, “Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days.” Which used the best available scientific data to make the following predictions for New Hampshire:


Historically, there have been three days per year on average with a heat index above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This would increase to 23 days per year on average by midcentury and 49 by the century’s end. Limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] above pre-industrial levels could reduce the frequency of such days to 17 per year on average.


By the end of the century, an estimated 970,000 people would be exposed to a heat index above 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the equivalent of two months or more per year. By limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius, all residents would avoid such days of extreme conditions. 


Historically, there have been zero days per year on average with a heat index above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This would increase to six days per year on average by midcentury and 19 by the century’s end. Of the cities with a population of 50,000 or more in the state, Dover and Nashua would experience the highest frequency of these days. Limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would cap the frequency of such days at two per year on average.


Both the Globe and the Union Leader wrote articles highlighting the report’s findings, to their credit. But neither article echoed the Union of Concerned Scientists’ oft-repeated point that only limiting temperature rise 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels can prevent such calamitous outcomes. And neither publication mentioned global warming as a likely causal factor in the death of the chickens—given that the heat index got up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit the day the doomed birds perished—in their coverage of that story. Even though the UCS report states that the historic average number of days with a heat index over 100 in New Hampshire is “zero.”


This year there was at least one such day. So that isn’t normal. And although it’s difficult to peg particular weather events to global warming, it is thus definitely worth mentioning the strong possibility of a connection in this case. For a very good reason beyond the importance of keeping the societal discussion of global warming going hereabouts: The birds’ deaths add to a growing mountain of evidence that global warming is already beginning to threaten food production. 


Like it or not, chickens are an important part of our food supply. But increasingly severe weather caused by a swiftly-heating planet is triggering major floods, major droughts, devastating wind storms, vast wildfires, and the spread of once-tropical insects and diseases—all of which harm crops and food animals, and put our future food security at risk. As sea level rise is starting to impinge on growing lands in low-lying areas. Making the NH chickens the equivalent of canaries in a coal mine when it comes to warning us of the looming danger to planetary food supplies—and highlighting a major problem with allowing average temperatures to continue spiraling skyward.


However, the planet is not getting hotter on its own. It is heating up because governments and major corporations are allowing the amount of carbon that human civilization is burning in the form of oil, gas, and coal to continue to increase. Putting more and more carbon dioxide—the main greenhouse gas—into the atmosphere every year. Despite those same governments and corporations paying lip service to the importance of decreasing the amount of carbon we burn. While the scientific consensus is now agreeing that the only way for our civilization—and perhaps humanity itself—to survive the rolling apocalypse that is human-induced global warming is to bring the net amount of carbon emissions (after somehow deploying carbon capture technologies on an industrial scale) to zero by 2030. A mere decade hence.


Yet in June, Bloomberg reported that “Global carbon emissions jumped the most in seven years in 2018 as energy demand surged, according to BP’s annual review of world energy…” So even huge climate criminal multinationals are aware that carbon emissions have continued to climb unabated—except for a short period after the 2008 financial collapse when manufacturing and transport slowed for a time across the globe.


All of which is to say that journalists need to do a much better job of covering global warming and its many dangerous effects. Too many stories like the sad premature death of the NH chickens do relate to climate change. But that critical angle too often goes unmentioned. And people then go about their daily lives thinking that global warming is something that will only affect humans in the far future or not at all.


WBUR just ran an interesting story on a network of major news outlets in Florida—a traditionally conservative state gradually coming to a political consensus that climate change is real—that have committed to collaborative coverage of the very obvious and constant effects of global warming in that low-lying subtropical farm state. Reporters and editors at those operations have decided that it’s their responsibility to work together to give this most dangerous of crises the constant attention it deserves.


And that’s clearly something that we need to do here in New England. 


Especially in the Bay State, where the Union of Concerned Scientists projections are even more dire: “Historically, the heat index has topped 90 degrees in Massachusetts seven days a year, on average.” But if there is no global action to significantly lower carbon emissions, that number would increase to “an average of 33 days per year by mid-century and 62 by century’s end.” Furthermore, the Commonwealth “currently averages no days when the heat index tops 100 degrees,” but without changes to global emissions that figure would rise to “10 days by mid-century and 26 days by century’s end.”


So I’m writing to commit DigBoston to three things.


First, this publication is going on record in joining the environmental movement aimed at slowing human-induced global warming—stopping it no longer being possible. My colleagues and I accept the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is a terminal threat to Earth’s biosphere and to our species. 


Second, we will strive to run more and better coverage of global warming in our own pages. And we will do everything we can to provide regular information on ways people can join together to build the movement to mitigate it.


Third, we are declaring our desire to help start a consortium of news outlets interested in working collectively to improve and expand coverage of global warming in New England. Alternatively, we will happily join an existing effort along those lines, should one we’re unaware of be underway.


Environmental journalists interested in writing for us—and environmental activists and organizations that wish to submit op-eds—are invited to email Chris Faraone and me with pitches at


And editors, publishers, and producers of news outlets interested in starting talks aimed at creating a reporting consortium on global warming in New England are strongly encouraged to contact us at the same email address.


We’re all overdue to take such steps. But journalists in the northeastern US can help change a lot more hearts and minds about the need to make slowing climate change a societal priority, if we work together. 


Jason Pramas is executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston.


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Let’s talk


October 17, 2018



So you’re a journalism student. This is a tough time to do what you’re doing. No question. According to Data USA, American colleges grant well over 10,000 journalism degrees a year. And sure, some of those are graduate degrees; so not all of those diplomas are going to newly minted journalists. Only most of them. But according to the Pew Research Center, the number of newsroom jobs dropped by 23 percent between 2008 and 2017—from 114,000 to 88,000. A loss of over 26,000 “reporters, editors, photographers and videographers” who “worked in five industries that produce news: newspaper, radio, broadcast television, cable and ‘other information services’ (the best match for digital-native news publishers).”


Many of the journalists who lost their jobs in that period are trying to hang on in a swiftly shrinking news industry. And those who have jobs are desperate to keep them.


Yet colleges keep pumping out trained journalists.


Here in the Boston area, we continue to have a reasonably strong news sector. But it’s taken some serious hits in the last couple of decades. The region’s flagship daily newspaper, the Boston Globe, has downsized its staff repeatedly over the years through buyouts and occasional layoffs, and its main competitor, the Boston Herald, was recently bought by a venture capital firm and has become a shadow of its former self in short order. Radio news outlets like WBUR and TV news outlets like WCVB have been somewhat more stable, if smaller, employers of journalists. The biggest weekly newspaper, the Boston Phoenix, folded outright in 2013. And an array of community newspapers have suffered from waves of mergers and consolidations—leaving fewer jobs in that part of the market, as well.


Meaning that students like you keep getting degrees in journalism—and related majors like communications, English, and literature. And you keep fighting to wedge your foot in newsroom doors in hopes of grabbing any of the declining number of full-time reporter jobs while the grabbing’s still decent. Despite the lack of anywhere near enough of said jobs to go around in cities like this one.


Why? Well, from my frequent conversations with aspiring journalists from schools around the area, near as I can figure, you all uniformly think that being a journalist is an important job and you’re very keen to do it. I’m sure journalism’s enduring popularity with students is also partially due to the surprising tenacity with which an air of romance and adventure hangs around the profession—helped along by an array of books and movies from All the President’s Men to The Year of Living Dangerously that remain touchstones in popular culture. Even as journalism’s reputation continues to take a beating from right-wing politicians and their followers.


The one explanation for your collective ardor for jobs in a waning profession that I’ve never heard from any journalism student is that you all are somehow doing it for the money. And how could you? Journalism is one of the worst-paying professions out there—with an average annual wage of $51,550 for full-timers in the US last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though more and more working journalists are freelancers without a steady gig… rendering even that figure functionally fantastical.


Nevertheless, such passion is precisely what motivates my colleagues and me at DigBoston. We’re certainly trying to make a living as working journalists… and trying to make it possible for as many of our peers as we can to do the same. But we’re mainly in the news game to provide our readers with the information they need to be engaged citizens (and residents) in our still relatively democratic society—while covering all the stuff that makes life worth living. And to have fun doing it.


For us, money isn’t the most important consideration. Not because we don’t need money to survive like (almost) everyone else. We totally do. Rather because if that were all we were focused on, we wouldn’t be able to practice journalism in this era of uncertainty. Since we know that nobody has yet hit upon a new economic model to fund news production anywhere near as successful as the failing old models once were.


Despite that fairly grim reality, we really like to help train other people to be journalists. Especially young people who have decided to take the leap and devote their lives to the trade. To pass the torch and all that. So, periodically, we like to write notes like this one to let journalism students know that if you’re serious about risking everything—your future economic security, your love life, and your sanity (on occasion)—to speak truth to power, or simply for the joy of writing solid copy about any subject that you’re really passionate about, then we want to talk to you.


We have an increasingly robust internship program at DigBoston. We’ve been attracting a growing number of fantastic and talented students to spend 6-8 hours a week working with us for a semester (or two). And we haven’t reached our capacity. We even accept recent graduates in some cases.


It’s a competitive application process, and we don’t pick everyone. But if you’re a journalism (or photography or multimedia or visual arts or design) student interested in working with a crew that does what we do first and foremost in the service of democracy, drop us a line at


Jason Pramas is executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston.