Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why are all the newspapers collapsing?

David Love has some ideas what's wrong. Here are some of my favorites:
I would suggest some additional reasons that some newspapers have failed. Too often, they simply have not served their readers, and the product, like a GM car, has lost its appeal. Many news companies— not just papers, but TV as well—are owned by corporate conglomerates and entertainment companies. This reality is reflected in the softball, celebrity gossip orientation of many so-called news outlets. Governed by the bottom line and cost-cutting measures, these papers have eliminated their City Hall beat reporters, and other reporters who are in tune with the pulse of a given city. In the absence of seasoned journalists who can actually report on anything, because those people were already laid off, these newspapers become a collection of news wires and press releases, in a pamphlet. And who is paying for that when you can read it online?

The damage has been done in terms of the giant pass that the news media have taken on the important issues of the day. During the Iraq War, the mainstream media took the opportunity to act as nationalistic cheerleaders, the propaganda arm of the Bush White House— beating the drums of war and almost celebrating the thousands upon thousands of deaths that would inevitably occur.

As cheerleaders for corporate America, the mainstream press fell asleep on the Wall Street crisis. Over-caffeinated blowhard snake-oil salesmen posing as business journalists were in abundance during the heyday of the financial sector. But where were the probing exposés on the problems of deregulation, and the thoughtful analyses on the consequences of gluttony on Wall Street?

Even as we speak, what about coverage on the thwarted assassination plots against President Obama? Or a meaningful discussion on the malicious and deleterious effects of U.S. drug policy? How about a substantive debate in the mainstream news about the madness that represents America’s gun policy, and the lethal combination of gun proliferation, economic recession and untreated mental illness—of individuals and of the society— that plays itself out in communities throughout the country?

Well, many newspapers and other corporate news venues will not offer and have not offered such valuable content. Their game is trifling and sloppy. So if they die, it wouldn’t be too soon, as they provided us little benefit in the first place. That is why people increasingly turn to independent news sources
One that David mentions that I suspect may be a really critical component is the fact that the papers I know of did quit doing City Hall and around the town coverage and replaced it with stuff like E! TV coverage of entertainment. As David says "Governed by the bottom line and cost-cutting measures, these papers have eliminated their City Hall beat reporters, and other reporters who are in tune with the pulse of a given city."

I think this became a lot worse when the Reagan administration stopped enforcing anti-trust and explicitly permitted local city newspapers to buy out and shut down their competitors. The result was no competition. Newspapers no longer had to spend money providing news their readers really wanted about their towns and cities. Instead they became boosters for whichever developers had taken over city hall during the last election and the newspapers pushed the latest great economic development plan - usually tourism or bringing conventions to town.

The result is that we are rapidly losing the journalistic expertise those newspapers built up over the years, what few elements of it their corporate masters had left to them after the last rounds of cost-cutting.

It's a dammed shame. It really looks like Capitalists and their accountants cannot manage a successful newspaper.

1 comment:

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