Journalism, where goest thou?


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Catskill Mountains
Compare and contrast these interesting events...

1. Per a piece in the NYT: the city's longtime tabloid The Daily News --in the wake of its acquisition by hedge fund Alden Capital-- will suddenly replace its editor in chief by any "as-needed" (!) attention from an interim editor in chief while hunting up a new one. The current editor in chief of the Hartford Courant, also now owned by Alden, will lend his hand to The Daily News now and then in the meantime. Seriously? Maybe these guys don't have as much to do as one might have thought. Or else Alden Capital doesn't understand it's rolling the dice against some major forthcoming mea culpa over a lack of enough oversight one of these days, in the land of tabloid headline wars between The Daily News and The New York Post.

2. The Washington Post is on a roll meanwhile and has decided it now has need of 41 new editors plus 2 who will be on the masthead. This reads like bright-side for sure. But it's a serious exception to where most of the biz has been heading lately.

3. Facebook is sick of the headaches of trying to combat fake news and other forms of disinformation, so is now trying to just ditch the (good, bad or indifferent) journalism that has been sported on feeds of its pages in the past for better or worse, and apparently a lot of members don't mind parting with news uptake from there either. Some research indicates FB users may be fairly casual about news consumption anyway, compared to those on reddit or Twitter.

Kinda makes me wonder (and probably a bunch of newspaper publishers and editors too) where the mass market for "real news" really is and how to capture enough of that market to make rounding up that news worth the effort.

The papers oriented to informing subscribers --and of course the financial markets' masters of the universe-- about everything on earth (FT, WSJ, Economist) are managing to get by all right... and the WaPo and NYT etc "papers of record" also count on a fair subscriber base needing to know who's on first or at least trying to get there. LA Times has perked up since it was taken out of the dreadful Zell era by a local billionaire. Boston Globe hangs on with its lively coverage of tech hub news plus its Spotlight investigations.

But past such upper tier papers, seems like the hedge funds have been eating up more and more formerly independent newspapers and combining them into new chains or clusters. Then regional syndication or just plugging in newswire pieces and keeping a few reporters for local color makes very deep staff cutting ever more feasible. The papers lose readers because there's nothing in there any more that wasn't on their smartphone from an aggregator or a wire service this morning, so news deserts are popping up all over the USA at this point, even in some larger cities.

What Alden has done to the Denver Post in the way of staff layoffs (300 to around 60) suggests that they don't really know a newspaper from a ladies' handbag retailer anyway. With the hedge funds it's still all about "buy it out, lend it money and gut the assets, flip it before it goes under."

Seems like such a vital part of our democracy --the Fourth Estate-- needs better protection from the late stage capitalism that deems "public service" akin to socialism, and otherwise wants to make everything produced in the private sector churn out ever higher profit margins at ever lower costs.

We're not really getting what we pay for any more in the output of middle tier news outlets that have been bought out and gutted. We're basically getting blindsided (sometimes at a nice promo rate for awhile though, to build circulation up for the sake of ad revenue prospects) and you can bet your last dime that plenty of the politicians in Congress and those funding the races won't raise a finger to prevent that blindsiding effect.

Weird and sad how in the "information age" what was once touted as a higher level of transparency afforded us by the internet and the advent of online news reporting about the ways of government and business is instead becoming not just opaque but invisible to more ordinary Americans.

Thomas Veil

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Glad to hear WaPo is doing all right. And yes, if Facebook dropped anything and everything resembling "news", I would rejoice and go on a three day bender.

Journalism has traveled a long and twisted road. In the early 20th century, every major city had at least two newspapers (real ones), and the biggest cities often had more. The reporters who worked for those papers were low-level celebrities, known to the readers who lived in those towns. If a crime happened, there'd be an actual, honest-to-god photographer or reporter sent to the scene to take a picture.

Now you're lucky to have one newspaper, it's not much of a paper, half the news seems to be syndicated, and if a crime story happened it's accompanied by a generic Getty Archives photo of a police car. šŸ˜’

I know smaller papers are looking for anyone to save them, and there isn't a Katharine Graham for every paper out there. But hedge funds owning and merging newspapers is just so wrong. Newspapers should be run by newspapermen, if you'll pardon the gender-biased terminology.
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