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The Mundane Assault on News Media

The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a gruesome reminder that the media is under attack. And yet the greatest risk to the profession is not contract killers carrying bone saws; rather, it is mundane concerns like budget cuts and intensifying demands on reporters.

OXFORD – The brutal torture and murder of the US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has focused attention on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is widely believed to have ordered the killing. It also highlights the hazards of the news business. When the final numbers are tallied, 2018 could be the most dangerous year on record for journalists worldwide.

But while physical attacks on journalists have become frighteningly bold – and Khashoggi’s killing may be the most audacious yet – most dangers confronting the profession are much more mundane. Five stand out.

First, the number of job opportunities is dwindling, and positions are characterized by low pay, perpetual job insecurity, and limited opportunities for advancement. In the United States, for example, newsroom employment has dropped nearly one-quarter in less than ten years, while enrollment in top journalism schools has tapered off more recently.

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