Newspaper and café

The long pronounced mantra of current economies is that to survive in the disruptive digital world, one would need to

  1. Lower the number of workers
  2. Increase the content they produce.

Or, maximize per-worker productivity.

Which has a few corollaries: cut costs & cut number of workers (layover). By so doing, however, workers’ conditions and quality of life worsen, perhaps the quality of their work decreases, and so does their end productivity, inevitably.

It seems to me such discourse has been applied also to higher education (at least in North America), with bad results. The number of colleges and faculty (especially tenured faculty) shrunk; tasks and load increased; and the number of different and new courses/programs often increased.

However, it seems this trend is perhaps being questioned with good results. For instance, in the newspaper industry, things have gone more or less as described above, in a trial-and-error strategy that ended up shutting down many smaller venues and linked ever more news outlets to publicity income, thus kneeling effectively to Google and Facebook’s power. Oh, and paywalls.

Not so with Le Monde, one of France most important newspapers. Says its director:

Effectively, in two years, Le Monde has cut down not the number of journalists, but the number of articles published. Instead, it has increased the number of journalists and likely enhanced the articles they write (thus showing that they believe in journalists–the people, not the bots). Probably (Monsieur Bronner does not say in his tweet), it has even bettered journalists working conditions, who knows, more advanced equipment, more and better typewriters?

Interestingly, the move has produced an increase in the newspaper’s diffusion and number of Web readers.

I wonder, would such moves be practical and useful in other domains, including education? I bet they sure would. The rhetoric of always diminishing human resources (or their time or their space, or both) because it’s supposedly the only way to combat the digital disruption (the economy must always increase–why?) must not necessarily be. In the case of Le Monde, I just wonder whether they’re employing more full-time or part-time people. But I think I know the answer.

[Featured image: “Periódicos” by Gonmi is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Antonio Vantaggiato