Daily Archives: May 26, 2008

The Iraq Body Count of Newspaper Industry Layoffs

Several more prominent blogs have linked to this already — including Matt Bors, whose blog tipped me to it — but I want to share this with some of my colleagues in the information professions (i.e., librarians.) Graphic designer Erica Smith has created Paper Cuts, a graphical blog that uses Google Maps to track layoffs in the newspaper industry.

For the new folks, a little history on this blog: In May 2007, Editor & Publisher ran a story about job cuts. (The story is no longer online, which is why I now copy stories into posts.) I talked about that story with other journalists. With nonjournalists. I blogged about it. But it seemed there was more — or should have been more. So I started a list of buyouts and layoffs at U.S. newspapers. (See the 2007 list.) All numbers come from people within the organization (Secret squirrel sources are always welcome!) or published reports. In December, I used Paper Cuts as an opportunity to learn how to create the map mashup — written using JavaScript and XML.

As with a regular Google Map, when a user clicks on a site marker (those upside down tear dop shaped icons), an information balloon pops up, this time with a link to a specific newspaper company and news about their financial status. For example, clicking the site marker for Portland, OR, I found this out:

Portland Tribune

Pamplin Media Group
Positions cut: Unknown
Announced: May 2, 2008
The twice-a-week paper will cut back to once-a-week, eliminating an unknown number of jobs.

Because Smith relies upon newspaper accounts to track the damage (kinda like Iraq Body Count), there are a lot of unknowns about staff numbers. And as Matt points out, the graph so far has not tracked information from the alternative press, which has been contradicting wildly over the past decade. Nonetheless, Erica has done a great thing here, demonstrating how to use available information tools in an easily accessible and readable format. Info literacy at its best! Students in writing, marketing, journalism and business classes might find this useful in their research, too.

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