Friday, September 14, 2007

Today's Depressing News

Well, not really news, or new -- just depressing. Charles Lewis writing in Columbia Journalism Review:

In the past couple of years alone, everything but a piano has fallen on the head of the serious press: Rupert Murdoch bought Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal; Knight Ridder, the nation’s most Pulitzer-honored newspaper chain, was dismantled; the McClatchy Company sold the Minneapolis Star Tribune to a private equity firm for less than half of its purchase price eight years earlier; and hundreds of reporters and editors accepted buyout offers at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Boston Globe, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Dallas Morning News, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and many other newspapers.

Four dailies that have produced inspiring international coverage in the past—The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Boston Globe, Newsday, and the Baltimore Sun—closed their remaining overseas bureaus. In TV, as veteran correspondent Tom Fenton has observed, a quarter century ago CBS News had twenty-four foreign bureaus and stringers in forty-four countries; today, there are six bureaus, none of them in Africa or Latin America. Time Inc., owner of the largest circulation newsweekly magazine, Time, eliminated 650 jobs in early 2006, including those of Don Barlett and Jim Steele, two of the nation’s preeminent investigative journalists, in May. The following week, it was reported that Time Inc. had just paid $4 million for exclusive photographs of Shiloh, the newborn baby of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

It's even worse at the local level. Not long ago I was in Connecticut, back in Middlesex County where I first worked in journalism. The Hartford Courant was still strong, as was the New London Day. But the main newspaper of the county, the Middletown Press, was a horror.

What had formerly been a dull but reliable locally owned newspaper, with extensive coverage of regional news, has become a cheaply produced tabloid with ads on the front page. It is now owned by a New Haven newspaper company, so a large article on New Haven -- which nobody cares about in Middletown, believe me -- was splattered on the third page.

Newspapers are worse than ever, and the reason for that is not Rupert Murdoch or Bin Laden but the greedy publishers who turn good newspapers into mediocrities and mediocre newspapers into dreck.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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