The conversation point came up in a recent Moonshine Ink staff meeting.

We were discussing the “pick-up” rate of Ink newspapers — an average 6% across the North Shore, Truckee, and Reno. Over a year-and-a-half of seeing these monthly numbers, and I finally dared to clarify: “Does that mean that only 6% of our papers are being picked up each month?”

My co-workers took the silly question in stride. “The opposite! Just 6% of the papers remain.”

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(We have changed the terminology to “return rate” to clarify things for people like me.)

The remark carried over into subsequent meetings with jokes like, “Wow, you must’ve had a lot of faith in this paper if you thought so few people picked it up,” or “Didn’t you think to mention that such a pick-up rate would mean a lot of wasted paper?”

I did, and yes. But bear with me in my naive thought process: I’m a print journalist in a country where newspaper circulation is at its lowest point since data began being collected, and employment has dropped by nearly 50% within a decade recently.

“Print is a dying industry,” my college professors used to tell me. “You need to be ready to have a lot of skills if you stick with this type of job.”

So, I spread myself thin, taking not only classes about reporting, but editing and graphic design and photography and social media and anything that could make me a threat when it came to working in an actual newsroom.

PEW, PEW: According to the Pew Research Center, staff numbers in print newsrooms dropped by 47% between 2008 and 2018. Moonshine Ink has maintained a permanent staff of about eight (plus freelance and contract positions). Chart, information courtesy Pew

It’s a good thing I did. Recall that stat I shared, about the drop in newsroom employment: It came from a Pew Research Center report. About 50% of newspaper staffers have been laid off since 2008, but printing presses continue to whir, spitting out papers; it’s 50% of the people doing 100% of the work.

I was hired to work at Moonshine as a news reporter. Now, I’m also an associate editor and graphic designer, assisting with social media, helping plan and lead events, and dabbling in audio reporting. Great for a résumé; demanding on a work schedule.

There’s no intent there to humble-brag. Rather, regardless of Moonshine’s entire staff of eight wearing many a hat, the newspaper industry continues to crumble around us while simultaneously competing with social media platforms that spread fake news six times faster than the truth.

What’s the silver lining in this scenario? Hold on tight while the parachute fails to launch? Of course not. We evolve and adapt. If our parachute isn’t deploying, or it comes out with holes and in tatters, you can bet that we’re patching things as we fall. That’s what this membership program is all about, seeking a helping hand from the community fabric we’re part of.

I’m thankful to have this job for a million and one reasons, not the least because it’s my passion. But high up on that list is being a news reporter in a community that wants us around.

Thank you for being a 90%-plus Moonshine-reading community, and not a 6% one.

Author

  • Alex Hoeft joined Moonshine staff in May 2019, happy to return to the world of journalism after a few years in community outreach. She has both her bachelor's and Master's in journalism, from Brigham Young University and University of Nevada, Reno, respectively. When she's not journalism-ing, you'll usually find her reading a murder mystery, pounding the pavement on a run, or eternally throwing the ball for her dog.

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