This weekend I was in Atlanta for Campus Progress' very first Southern Regional Conference. This time, we had an activism track for those activist-types and a journalism track for the nerdier writer-types. Overall I was really impressed with a lot of the young people I met there. I also was impressed that a lot of our guest speakers like Ta-Nahasi Cotes, Christopher Hayes, Richard Kim, and our keynote, Isabel Wilkerson, weren't all doom-and-gloom about the future of the journalism industry.
It seems clear that media is in an economic crisis, just like the rest of the country. That, in turn is prompting a lot of changes in how media is presented -- something that would have happened eventually, but now that companies are trying to trim their budgets, they're also trimming in places and starting to see what doesn't work anymore. Many of our speakers noticed that although media seems to be "dying" it won't be dead. Instead, it just might look a little different than the hard-core newspaper days of yore. Wilkerson seemed particularly optimistic, pointing to the times historically when people said upon the invention of the radio and the television that the newspaper was dead.
This morning I saw this article in Inside Higher Ed about how Clark Atlanta University, the place where Wilkerson teaches, has laid off about 70 faculty members last week, some of them forbidden from teaching this week and had their classes canceled on Friday. Perhaps Wilkerson was optimistic about journalism, a profession in which she'd reach success by working at the New York Times and winning a Pulitzer Prize, over academia where her colleagues are getting the boot. Apparently in these tough economic times, even the university isn't a safe haven.
UPDATE: Apparently I was totally wrong. Wilkerson teaches at Emory University, not Clark. I take a week off from blogging and totally fail. The point is still interesting, though, that academia, which has traditionally been seen as a "safe" place to wait out a recession may not be such a safe place after all.