Free news sources and professional reporting
The loss of paid and professional journalists is something to be concerned about if we wish our democracy to continue. Unfortunately Fox News and the Republicans seem to want journalism to evolve into PR flacks and bloggers who can be manipulated by big business and the Republican Party.
Radio stations have shed news departments, with markets that once had two to as many as ten radio news departments down to one or in some cases no actual radio station crews. Television stations now provide promos or short headlines or radio stations, while providing news services to as many as three television stations in each market from one studio and news crew. Newspapers are shedding employees, closing bureaus, shrinking pages and in some cases disappearing entirely. Even the large television and cable networks have had to shed staff, close bureaus and replace costly reporting with talking head and ratings grabbing commentators masquerading as news anchors or journalist. Reuters and the AP have radically slashed wire service staff, have fewer reporters at affiliates to feed them leads and stories and have retooled to newsmagazine formats from hourly or immediate news providers. UPI is for all practical purposes dead, despite the name continuing. Bloomberg has reduced its staff by 50%.
Sources of news, variety of reporting voices and perspectives, fact checking, feet on the ground, pages or time for in depth reporting and local news sources are all disappearing rapidly.
What is news is being driven by advertising priorities, ratings, papers sold, and consumer preference. The little girl in the well trumps a major natural disaster overseas or a war. A celebrity takes time and ink from real newsmakers or real events. Name-calling and negative spin trump balanced reporting on events or issues that should see the light of day. Ethnocentric priorities have overcome any pretense of a fair and balanced view of the world.
Media is dyeing through consolidation, financial crunch, profit motive and the systematic dumbing down of the American population.
The answer, we are told, is the multitude of Internet based voices. But are these balanced, informed or accurate? I have students provide “proof” of things that are wrong or inaccurate using a wide range of Internet “sources.” You can defend any point of view or find alternatives to what trained journalist report easily on the net, without delving into the opinion driven realm of blogs.
Newspapers are not dead, but are evolving or for pessimists, dying. 1.7 million copies of the Philadelphia Inquirer are delivered or purchased at newsstands each day. The New York Times boast many times that amount. Wall Street Journal does well, even with requiring subscription or payment or their on-line publication.
NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday looked at journalism a different way. They looked at how dangerous the profession has become. For National Public Radio the issue is personal. They have had four journalist and many staff members (drivers, translators and so on) held or killed over the past seven years. Correspondent Roxanna Saberi has been held captive for over a year by Iran, without charges, at an undisclosed location. The pleas or her release are currently being heard at the UN level.
First posted 9-2-2009