Monday, November 23, 2009

Media: Stating the Obvious

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Sometimes it is nice when the obvious is reported as news. In a recent issue of Chemical and Engineering News, an article cited the Chemjobber blog (right there making me wonder what passes for news these days) which noted that the number of industrial positions advertised in the mid-September issue of the trade magazine for chemists and chemical engineers had dropped from nearly 60 in 1989 and just over five in 2007 to ZERO in 2009. It had occurred to me about mid-September that I hadn't responded to an employment ad or pointed a friend to an ad the entire calendar year of 2009. During the turmoil in which the business I was working for was shutting down in 2005, I don't think a single week went by when I didn't at least forward someone a lead from the magazine's classified ads.

An interesting graph that they didn't print, and I am too lazy to generate myself, would be a graph of industrial positions advertised each month that were outside the United States and Europe. It is my impression that the number of these positions (mostly, but not exclusively in China) has remained essentially steadily since the onset of the current recession. So, when it was broadly reported recently that China's growth rate may be 8% for 2009, that didn't really strike me as big news, either. Yet, the obvious had not yet been reported.

There's no big message here. While it is true that print advertising is suffering relative to on-line job boards, in technical fields, trade journals have been relatively inert to the phenomenon compared with newspapers. The number of academic jobs advertised in Chemical & Engineering News has "slowed too" according to the magazine's director of advertising sales, but not nearly as much. (Funny how the article didn't quantitate that.) If the academic advertising decline served as a baseline for the move away from print, then the trends observed are simply reflective of the current job market. The market isn't as bad in China, so the decline in ads isn't as great. It doesn't necessarily mean that the whole chemical industry is moving to China.

We complain a lot about how the media try to sensationalize stories and try to make them mean something profound. If I did that more often (and I have done it--look through the archives), this blog would probably be more widely read. Sometimes, though, it's refreshing just to see something obvious reported at face value, for the record.

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