Thursday, February 13, 2020

News Fit to Print

The New York Times, created the famous slogan "All the News That's Fit to Print," which still appears on the masthead of the newspaper today.  And that may be the single source printed daily that remains in the years ahead.   The Washington Post owned by Jeff Bezos is a strong source of news that adapted to being an powerhouse online journal, The Wall Street Journal continues to hang on and the L.A.Times found a benefactor that is enabling it to revitalize itself and hopefully remain a powerful force in news.

That said the Chicago Tribune has taken to the media to beg for help so it doesn't fall into the dark holes of what many newspapers have of late.  The death of local press has further eroded to the reality that many cities and towns do not have a daily press or even a weekly one to cover local news and issues that affect many communities.  Funny the slogan: Democracy Dies in Darkness aligns the masthead of The Washington Post and there may be truth to that as since a Tennessee legislator is attempting to get both press and television media labeled "fake news."  I assume Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting stations will be exceptions.  This is America divided, disgruntled and disgraceful.  A big D for dummy.

The rise of social media can be attritbuted to the death but also Craigslist and other methods of staving off advertising from press which was a large underwriter of the cost of producing daily journals.  This includes magazines that were weekly and monthly and some have evolved such as New York Magazine and some thrive thanks to vital Editors who seem to find ways to report and tell stories in the ways they need to.  The New Yorker is still a must read for many, the Atlantic can thank its benefactor of Lauren Powell Jobs to step in and buy them.  Harper's for some reason continues as does Time but the highway of the press is littered with the corpses of dead journals that once sat upon many a coffee table - Newsweek, Look, Life to those who have simply reduced print cycles and/or going digital - Teen, Glamour, Bride.  And yes it affected conservative media, The Weekly Standard which ceased operations. Tech magazines also went online and of course even other men's magazines have found themselves closing or changing their publication cycle.  And of course the same for children which are either shuttering or going digital.  I find it hard to believe that people are whipping out the IPad or Iphone to read them as photography and the ability to simply enjoy the glossy spread is something that makes magazines well magazines.  You toss it on the table and go back to look at or read when the time arrives but then today it appears no one has time yet when you seen people walking they are all looking downward at their magical 3x5 cards as a beacon in which holds them in the thrall of the screen.  They are reading social media and texting folks no one is reading anything.

The man next to me today had the Wall Street Journal which he glanced through and put aside to whip out his laptop and work but at least it was press.  We do get delivery here of the Times, the Journal and the Post to some residents but not many.  I have no idea who or where to get local news so I too scan the web but largely I just watch local news and even that Jersey centric stuff is a hunt.  But hey I am informed. And I still get the Tennessean for some reason and cannot seem to cancel maybe that is how they keep that piece of shit alive who knows as Gannett was sold last year and they dissolved most of the staff in the new binge purge of news.

That is the nature of the news business now and today McClatchy declared bankruptcy. They were once a powerhouse of investigative journalism and in the some need to fill the gaping hole of local press they sadly attempted to switch focus and that was the death nail to the coffin. One of my favorite shows was Bill Meyers on PBS and he often cited the reports by McClatchy reporters as essential news.  That now ProPublica and Frontline have taken over much of the nuts and bolts of true deep dive I worry that they too will find themselves reliant on an ever distracted public whose attention spans are somewhere between a rock and the bottom of a pond as Americans are increasingly become less informed and educated for whatever reasons I am unclear.  I have thoughts but on that note I will move on.

That said simply taking pleasure in reading, looking at scenes that are from places that you may go or never go, to learn about something that teaches you a skill or lends to a hobby, the gives detail about a subject or person or simply just things you love and admire for no other reason to just that are what journals and news provides but clearly we cannot do that unless a friend (a vague description that I hear frequently from those who never have been to anyone's home, met their family or shared a meal with but okay) takes a picture and posts it as valid info.   Never going to a place because some stranger whom you have never met has informed you that it sucks.   Wow just wow. But this is what we have become a nation of likes and hates and we do well on the hate. No wonder people bore me and how exhausted I became trying to converse with the morons in Nashville as it was such a waste of time and frankly there is no time worth wasting on people who are stupid. Why?  Well we have to but I am at the point is do I really have to.  Just walking into coffee this a.m. I kept it simple stupid and allow my parting remarks to the angry girl behind the bar (who tops anyone I met in Nashville as both angry and dumb) with: "Have a great afternoon!" I cannot dumb it down to pretend to care anymore and I would rather listen to music, go to great theater and read a book, a newspaper or a magazine than spend one minute having a conversation that was beneath me.  Try it you may surprise yourself.  Being informed is both dangerous and powerful.

More Than 1 in 5 U.S. Papers Has Closed. This Is the Result.

Readers across the country told us how they were affected by the decline of local news: “Our community does not know itself.”

By Lara Takenaga
The New York Times
Dec. 21, 2019

City Council and school board meetings. Small-town sports and politics. Local government corruption.

These are a handful of the news and issues that go unreported when small newspapers close or are gutted by layoffs. Over the past 15 years, more than one in five papers in the United States has shuttered, and the number of journalists working for newspapers has been cut in half, according to research by the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism. That has led to the rise of hollowed-out “ghost papers” and communities across the country without any local paper.

We asked readers living in communities with newspapers that were shut down or gutted to tell us how they had been affected. Here is a selection of their responses, which have been lightly edited.
Living without a local paper

The weekly Mount Dora Topic, in Florida, folded in 2006 after decades of ad competition with dailies north and south of the 14,000-population town. Now those dailies are cutting back, and coverage of Mount Dora is scarce.

After years without a strong local voice, our community does not know itself and has no idea of important local issues or how the area is changing and challenged by growth and the impact of climate change. We are a nameless and faceless town defined only by neighborhoods.

A few local blogs pick up commercial events that are relayed on Facebook, but aside from that, we only hear of murders and fires and hot-button controversies — the stuff of TV news.

— David Cohea, Mount Dora, Fla.

Local stories about mayoral races, city and county council races, commissions, library activities and school board decisions are all missing since our local weekly newspaper, The Issaquah Press, went dark. I miss the photos, the letters to the editor, the obituaries and the wonderful tone of the paper that we got every week for 38 years, until it stopped publication in February 2017 after 117 years.

— Margaret Buckwitz, Issaquah, Wash.

The Tri-Town News in Sidney, N.Y., ended publication a year ago. There is no way to reliably learn about decisions of local governments, or even about the issues being raised. School news, religious news and upcoming and recent events are all lost. Even local advertisements that were helpful in planning for home improvements and gift-giving, not to mention posting local jobs, are gone.

The view from within

I’m the editor, publisher, reporter and office manager for probably one of California’s smallest newspapers: The Ferndale Enterprise.

I’m on the cliff, about ready to close, after doing this for more than two decades. We’ve won a boatload of state and national awards, but I, too, am spitting into the wind. We’ve been through costly First Amendment battles, been told we were fake news long before you-know-who started muttering those two words.

We’re currently cleaning toilets at two Airbnbs at our newspaper office to keep the presses printing. If we decide to shut the doors after 141 years, it’ll take us a year to wind down, we figure. We have to run out people’s subscriptions: can’t afford to give refunds!

— Caroline Titus, Ferndale, Calif.

I was the editor and publisher of The Millbrook Independent, which closed its print operation after an eight-year run. We started two weeks after the preceding paper closed, taking local news to a higher plane. We found circulation shrinking and tried migrating to the web, which worked for us but not for readers who didn’t regularly go to our web pages.

School boards, town and village boards, county news, local news — it all disappeared. We were a check on governments, on endless environmental and zoning hearings, on budgets that we often published in detail, on misdoings and good doings.

There is now a void. No one took up the slack.

— Stephen Kaye, Millbrook, N.Y.
Struggling to hang on

Our local newspapers, The Republican and the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Massachusetts, haven’t shut down yet but they might as well have closed. Their staffs have been so dramatically reduced that there is little oversight of local government and local businesses. The checks and balances afforded by this don’t exist, and it is only a matter of time before the potentially corrupt realize they will be able to get away with corruption more easily.

— Stan Freeman, Northampton, Mass.

The Burlington Free Press has not closed, but local issue coverage has been reduced to the point of uselessness. City Council meetings are covered when there is a hot topic on the agenda. Even these get short shrift.

Continue reading the main story

It is almost impossible to keep on top of new happenings and to updates to older news. In my opinion, we’re in an era in which the populace makes civic decisions with little or no background information.

— Tom Derenthal, Burlington, Vt.

A local paper doesn’t have to be truly closed to be closed in effect. Los Angeles is made up of many localities, and a subsidiary of The Los Angeles Times has taken over several local papers in recent years. It owns the Burbank Leader, where only a few reporters cover some issues in a twice-weekly paper. The “grammar” column and large photos dominate it.

If you truly want to know what is going on, you need to attend every commission meeting and council meeting in person, and no one has time for that.

— Julie D’Angelo, Burbank, Calif.

I live in Denver. The Rocky Mountain News closed 10 years ago, and The Denver Post is useless and run by a money company. It is filled with ads, not local news.

The Colorado Sun, an online publication, arose from the ashes of The Denver Post’s decline. This is where I now find my local news. They show up for local and state politics and attempt to educate citizens on what our public officials are up to. The reporting is good, insightful and widespread. Before The Colorado Sun emerged, there was almost no coverage of local and state politics by The Denver Post.

— Sarabeth Bjorndahl, Denver

Our local paper, The San Diego Union-Tribune, was bought by the owner of The Los Angeles Times. It has been a mixed blessing: National and state news has improved, but local coverage has suffered. We regularly have a section of the paper called “California” that is filled with stories from Los Angeles. Most of us here don’t live in Los Angeles for a reason, and don’t care about what is happening there. Fortunately, there have been several online start-ups that are filling the void of local reporting.

The Voice of San Diego and the Times of San Diego, coupled with the online versions of the local TV news, seem to do a pretty good job of covering what is going on in our region. One thing I particularly like is that some of the organizations regularly hold community meetings to discuss what is going on, their coverage and what is of interest to the community. That never happened with traditional news organizations.

— Bruce Higgins, San Diego

The Greensboro News & Record was my local paper. While it hasn’t closed, it is a mere shadow of its former self. It is now owned by a division of Berkshire Hathaway.

It barely covers national or even state news. The obits and church news still get covered well. The sections that used to focus on surrounding counties were eliminated years ago. It is harder to even find a copy in public places like stores. I only buy the Sunday paper these days.

— Sandi Campbell, Randolph County, N.C.
The demise of print

Our town’s weekly, The Concord Journal, increasingly prints handouts and rarely covers anything you might call local news reporting. Many hot issues don’t see print. And now our weekly includes another town, Lincoln, further diminishing its local aspect. I subscribe but finish reading it in about two minutes because there is nothing there.

— Judith Hill, Concord, Mass.

Our paper hasn’t closed yet, but the Pittsburgh Post Gazette began publishing only three days a week in September. I am retired, as is my husband. His day begins with reading the paper — not online, but sitting in his chair and reading every single word. I don’t know if he will ever read it online. And I know many people feel the same way. It will soon be a lost art — reading at leisure, at the kitchen table, talking about local happenings.

— Barb Krause, Pittsburgh

I graduated from high school this year, but for the past four years, I worked on my school’s newspaper staff. Each year, there would be one community incident or another, and our publication would cover it and be one of the main sources (if not the only one) for readers instead of commercial publications because they’ve all closed over time.

For our publication to be a trusted source for community news was a great learning opportunity, but the lack of a local newspaper outside of ours is unfortunate.

— Marianne Nacanaynay, Lynnwood, Wash.

Our local newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, hasn’t closed, but it might as well have. There is nothing of value in it, unless you want to read about Boise State football. I worked as a local newspaper reporter for six years, so I know the stories that are missing: government meetings, politics, court stories, cultural events, stories about new businesses and restaurants.

Fortunately, the Idaho Press-Tribune, based in Nampa, a city 20 miles west of Boise, is making an aggressive bid to enter the news vacuum in Boise, so local journalism has improved in the last year or so.

— Penny Beach, Boise, Idaho

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