Newspapers were very much in the news this week, in the wake of the Boston bombings and the manhunt for the escaped suspect: many cheered the news coverage of the Boston Globe, in part because of the paper’s shrunken newsroom and the fact that it is up for sale. There are many other newspapers suffering the same fate, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, which went bankrupt in 2009 and was sold last year for $55 million — or about 50 percent less than it sold for in 2010 and more than 85 percent below what it sold for in 2006.
Photographer Will Steacy has released a somewhat painful photo essay that shows the paper’s dramatic decline. As Wired magazine describes, Steacy’s father worked at the Inquirer for almost 30 years until he and many others were downsized. The shrinking of the Inquirer‘s staff was just a microcosm of the much larger decline of the U.S. newspaper industry as a whole, with the number of full-time media employees now at its lowest level since 1978.
After its bankruptcy, The Inquirer moved its newsroom from the massive, 87-year-old, 526,000-square-foot headquarters known as the “Tower of Truth” in downtown Philadelphia to a single floor of a former department store near Chinatown. Steacy took photos of both the old newsroom and the new — and of everything in between, including most of the remaining staff, the paper’s old printers and the cluttered desks of various editors and reporters.
The new Inquirer newsroom looks like somewhere a high-school paper would be produced, not a newspaper that serves a city of 1.5 million. And Steacy tells Wired that when his father was laid off in 2011, he actually had to put the project on hold because it became too emotional for him. He believes — as many do — that the future of journalism is a question mark as great newspapers like the Inquirer continue to be downsized or even go bankrupt. As he puts it:
“The internet, for lack of a better metaphor, makes up the branches of the tree. But newspapers have centuries-long traditions of being the roots of the tree. If the roots of tree rot and crumble the rest of the tree will fall with it.”
Photos courtesy of Will Steacy