For journalists, bars have long functioned as second newsrooms. Over martinis, sources share secrets. Over beers, ordinary men and women plead for coverage of some local outrage. And when the news business has convulsed, eliminating afternoon editions or shuttering foreign bureaus, reporters have knocked back a scotch or two, shaken their fists at management and vowed to soldier on.
That was the mood in Washington on Friday evening at the National Press Club, which invited any journalists who had recently been laid off for free tacos and drinks. Though hundreds of reporters and editors have lost their jobs across the country since the start of the year (one editor said he feared that an “extinction-level event” loomed over the industry), newsrooms in the nation’s capitol appeared to suffer inordinately, with a relentless procession of bad news throughout the fall and winter.
In November, Bloomberg shed more than a dozen jobs. The next month, The Washington Post eliminated about 240 positions through buyouts. In late January, The Los Angeles Times cut its D.C. bureau to the bone; a week later, The Wall Street Journal decided to jettison roughly 20 staffers in Washington. And then there was The Messenger, a lavishly-funded online news outlet with offices in Washington that flamed out after less than a year of operation.
“We had a conversation a few months prior that we felt pretty stable in our jobs,” said Sam Murray, 25, formerly a data journalist for Bloomberg. “One morning it all ended. Very unexpected.”
So, to the bar, for camaraderie and condolence.
“I know this isn’t the solution,” Emily Wilkins, 33, the National Press Club’s new president, said of the taco night. “But you can’t just do nothing.”
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