Can ageism save the old media? Under 25 is the age limit for new Jawa Pos reporters

imageCan ageism save the old media? The Jawa Pos in Indonesia “will only hire someone if they are under 25 and you must retire when you hit 50—no matter what your seniority.” So reports Sarah Lacy in a TechCrunch article headlined Is Print Media Doomed Worldwide or Just In The US? For someone born December 29, 1975, she is surprisingly soft on the Pos.

Age issues come up in The Solomon Scandals, where Jon Stone, the reporter protagonist, is in his 30s and already worried.

I think a TechCrunch commenter has this pegged well in his reply to Ms. Lacy: “A lot of the big stories are broken by precisely those same codgers that she wants to put out to pasture, the ones with sixty zillion contacts in their rolodexes and an encyclopedic knowledge of the courts, police, politicians and government bureaucracies. Look at Sy Hersch, who has got to be pushing 70 and still is probably the best investigative reporter in the business.”

image Besides, when I was an under-25er at the Lorain Journal in Northern Ohio, a reporter named Jack LaVriha did exactly what Ms. Lacy writes about the junior set. In his 50s, he constantly attended night and early-morning meetings and enjoyed his share of scoops—in part because of all the people he knew around town.

Then again, I wonder how the Net will change both real and perceived journalistic requirements. One reason I sold my TeleRead e-book news-and-views site was that I was tired of working for my own wire service—constantly worrying about whether other sites had beaten us. Here in the D.C. area, the new TBD local site will compete against the Washington Post at least in part by adapting the “news radio” concept for the Web. Unofficially, will that influence hiring practices?

The memory angle: As I, er, recall, short-term memory declines with age, but many older people can make better sense of what they observe. In the end, shouldn’t the performance of individuals count the most? Pragmatically, not just legally here in the States, that’s the better way—with or without unions around. Hmm. You can read my take on a memory-related segment from NPR.

The irony: The print edition of the Jawa Pos looks much better, in images at least, than does the paper’s chaotic Web site. Is the Pos hiring Web designers over 16?

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David Rothman

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