Just two years out of college, 28-year-old journalist Joshua Licks has big dreams for the future. Currently a reporter for the Bothell / Kenmore Reporter, a small local paper delivered weekly to about 15,000 homes, Licks dreams of one day landing a job at The Seattle Times, where he will subsequently be laid off due to the paper’s continually declining circulation and ad revenue.
“It’s every journalism student’s dream to make it to one of the slowly dying big dailies,” said Licks. “Hopefully, if I write enough interesting, hard-hitting pieces, I’ll eventually be good enough to get hired, and soon thereafter fired by the Seattle Times.”
If all goes according to plan, Licks’ journey through the ranks of print journalism will mirror that of many who have gone before him.
“Every young reporter has to do their time at a thriving small paper before they can move up to one of the withering big-name rags,” said Ron Postman, living editor at the Seattle Times until he was laid-off in July. “It’s the natural flow of the business.”
After Licks received his degree in journalism from Ohio State University in 2002, he headed to Seattle to kick off his ambitious career goals. The young Licks had no problem securing a job at the rapidly-expanding Bothell / Kenmore Reporter. Sound Publishing, the paper’s parent company, has seen total circulation quadruple in the last four years.
But a successful career in journalism is not just about working for a prosperous publisher, according to Licks. “It’s all about making it to a nationally-recognized institution as it swirls the drain.”
“Picturing the day that the legions of kids blogging on the internet in their pajamas cause the Times to send me to the unemployment line is what keeps me going,” said Licks.
As the steady stream of financial losses continues for big newspapers like the Seattle Times, many young reporters have all but given up on the dream of being fired by one of the print giants.
For Licks, the opportunity to be downsized by a big time paper can’t come soon enough.
“Having a steady paycheck and a large budget for up-to-date equipment can get so old sometimes,” said Licks. “I’d really like to experience the stress of working for a dying organization while I’m still young enough to naïvely believe that it’s a prestigious job.”