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We Deserve The Newspaper We Get

Feel my blinding anger at Brett Anderson being let go from The Times-Picayune when braying donkeys continue to pass for food writers and collect paychecks elsewhere. Because New Orleans isn’t a fraking mecca of food or anything.

***

Three articles to consider. Put them together and draw your own conclusions.

1) The Gambit: After the cuts at The Times-Picayune

… Others who were tendered chances to stay were offered new assignments. Longtime political columnist Stephanie Grace and Cindy Chang, who helmed the paper’s recent eight-part investigation into Louisiana prisons, were both offered general reporter slots. Ramon Antonio Vargas, a Northshore crime-and-courts reporter, was offered to stay on — covering sports. Reporter James Varney was offered a job as political columnist. Overall, those in the sports and features departments fared better than their co-workers on the news beats or in the paper’s bureaus, some of which were decimated.

2) The Lens: Changes at The Times-Picayune lay bare the roots of a national trend

… The decline of newspapers is rooted decades earlier in FCC changes in media ownership policies and the economic models that seek to generate maximum profit from news.  In the name of deregulation and under the guise of greater competition, changes in media ownership policies allowed one company to own more and more media outlets and control a greater share of regional markets across the U.S.  In the continued search for profit, they increase their income by acquiring more and more media outlets and reducing their expenses by producing cheaper, less costly content (e.g., a news story that reports merely what was said at a press briefing rather than one that investigates the truth of those claims), reducing production frequency, laying off journalists and closing entire papers.

And, as Jeffrey said in response to this article, “Perhaps the most animating cause behind the rise of the ‘blogosphere’ over the past decade has been the reaction of the readership to this dumbing down of the news by conglomerates like Newhouse.  The internet has afforded individual consumers of the news an opportunity to vent their frustrations with clearly identifiable gaps in coverage left by the Newhouse model.”

3) Salon: Dead newspapers kill democracy dead

… One role the postwar, professional, “objective” daily newspaper played was to referee the political fights, to decide, through coverage decisions or omission or outright editorializing, which positions were mainstream and which weren’t … But in a newspaperless society, it turns out, it is quite easy for politicians and parties to get away with a lot. Not just outright corruption, not secretive backroom deals, but actual public legislative actions that would have seemed outrageous a generation ago.

Just like government, we deserve the newspaper we get. As a part of the process and the market, if we don’t demand much, we don’t get much. Godpseed to those axed from The Times-Picayune. I really hope you start your own paper or join forces with the other now-better news outlets in town. The rest of America: Watch and learn. The Newhouse model is coming for your city paper next.

5 comments… add one
  • Tim June 13, 2012, 5:26 PM

    Yes, the root cause of this is media consolidation. The press has always been and should remain free from government regulation. If you don’t like the local newspaper(s), you can start your own. What the FCC did was regulate broadcasting, which is necessary because the airwaves are limited and belong to the public. The FCC had rules that limited how many radio and TV stations could be owned in each market because a diversity of opinions was considered valuable. Although nobody including the FCC had or has any control over newspapers, the FCC did have rules that broadcasters could not own newspapers in the same markets. A delicate game to be sure, but it worked.

    Enter the free market capitalists, who claimed the airwaves should not be so tightly regulated.

    Today we have so much media consolidation I wonder how it could get any worse. And yet I know it will.

    My hope is that everyone will boycott The Times-Picayune in print and online and that the whole venture will either be sold or go completely belly-up. Then the market will be ready for a new player. Perhaps an existing paper will expand, or perhaps a new paper will rise. It’s worth a try.

    Thanks for blogging about this!

    Peace,

    Tim

    • Maitri June 13, 2012, 5:40 PM

      What pricks the most about all of this are:

      a) that the internet is a natural medium of MORE information sharing and not less. Newhouse could have retained the workers and published a spectacular internet newspaper, and

      b) who the hell can read NOLA.com when they don’t have access to computers?

      Check out this article on new business plans for universities as well. Some of that stuff about MBAs and accreditation of online universities sound familiar?

  • Anita June 13, 2012, 10:02 PM

    While it is true that the press remains free from government regulation, relaxation of more and more restrictions on businesses serving the public has increased competition for profits. For consumers, this tends to bring on lower prices, lesser quality, more danger. Generally, think of airline deregulation, financial services deregulation, more liberal campaign finance rulings and, more pertinently for this discussion, media deregulation.

    The pressure on broadcast news to compete for airtime with revenue centers has, I believe, considerably dumbed down consumer expectations. The conflation in our minds of television news and newspaper news, has promoted the notion that the content is largely interchangeable and the medium is the only consideration. That this has happened during an era that has also seen a decline in the quality of public education is especially unfortunate. The shift from a prosperous industrial society to an information age in which the global balances are shifting has not been fully accepted by large segments of American society. These changes and this upheaval have made possible the opportunity for 46th-place capitalists like Newhouse/Advance Media organization to buy and gut dailies as precisely and carefully as a jeweler strings pearls.

    Once that hole is drilled through the heart of the paper and the newsroom is cut through and mostly discarded, something very precious to American freedom is lost and may never be regained. What has taken centuries to build and has flourished for a brief period in human history–a free press–is now owned by people who live a long way from here and do not care whether you and I know what is happening in the the world, the government, the council chamber or the Carribean Sea come September, for that matter.

    A magna cum laude graduate of Yale, the 35 year old Steven Newhouse was editor of The Jersey Journal, a print daily, in 1993. What happened as Steven moved up in the family organization is history. The online version of that paper today is very familiar to anyone who has clicked on our local online daily access. It is sickeningly familiar to me. While Jersey City is in a very densely populated part of the world, New Orleans is virtually an island off the southeast corner of Louisiana. There is no bullet train to nearby metropolis or scores of other nearby dailies available. What’s here is us. Advance just kicked out about 200 of us.

    I, for one, feel this loss like a huge punch–maybe bigger than any delivered by anything to this city in my 30 years here except Katrina. More than me, more even than us, than New Orleans, there is a loss going on which is moving toward irreversibility, of the freedom of the press in this country. It takes a lot of talent, training and organization to write effectively about major issues, including this one. We are watching the organization being dismantled. I don’t think we’re going to like what climbs over the rubble and sets up shop where the free press used to be.

  • just jon June 15, 2012, 11:49 PM

    Oi. Crap.

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