Does American Mainstream Media Have a Death Wish?

 

I posed this question to the editors of my local newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch, a few weeks ago. Their response was the sound of crickets; nothing. Perhaps they believed that I was being facetious (wrong). Perhaps they believed that I was a right-wing crank (well, no one’s perfect).

What prompted my question to the Dispatch editors was an article in the “hard news” section concerning President Trump. This particular article was written by a journalist from the Associated Press (the Dispatch obtains the vast majority of its national and international news stories from the AP, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post). The journalist opened his article by declaring that the President “observes international norms in the same manner that a teenager observes curfews.” The rest of the article was sprinkled generously with the familiar “snarl” words directed toward Trump and the accompanying “purr” words when describing Trump’s opponents (to those of you not familiar with S.I. Hayakawa’s seminal work “Language in Thought and Action,” “snarl” and “purr” words are those with built-in judgments).

Although this article was not unique it was particularly ironic in that, just a few days earlier, the Dispatch had published a lengthy article detailing research that showed the steadily increasing numbers of Americans who no longer believe what they see or read in this country’s mainstream media. Now, I’m not concerned in the slightest about what I see on cable news stations or what I read in the Opinion sections of newspapers. I know, up front, what to expect. However, when I turn to the “hard news” section of a newspaper I expect a “Jack Webb” approach to the news; “Just the facts, ma’am.”

OK, I guess I’m giving away my age. I grew up in an era when the family grouped around the TV for the evening news and watched as folks such as Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, Howard K. Smith, and Walter Cronkite kept us informed of world events. We believed them; what’s more, we trusted them. Similarly, we read our morning (or evening) newspapers and knew that those hard-bitten AP or UPI reporters were giving us the “straight scoop” on every story that we read. If we didn’t agree with what was written in the Opinion pages, we simply moved on.

Then, things changed that caused us to question our news sources. Though there were numerous instances, perhaps the most egregious were NBC’s “revelations” of exploding GM pickup trucks and CBS’s attempted “October Surprise” just before the 2004 Presidential elections.

Similarly, scandals in the print media such as the Janet Cooke and Jayson Blair cases showed us how easily we readers could be manipulated. We realized that something was amiss.

It didn’t happen overnight. The journey of American journalism has been long and tortuous. As Professor Larry Schweikart writes in his excellent book, “7 Events That Made America America,” American newspapers in the 1830s were little more than “neighborhood gossip rags.” However, during the Civil War, Americans demanded more objective reporting, hungry to know more about the conflict that was consuming the country.

Then, in the 1930s journalists banded together to form associations and establish standards that sought to provide some semblance of professionalism in the gathering and dissemination of the news. These standards seemed to work well for most of the century. Journalists, for the most part, adhered to the rules of their profession. Of course, there were exceptions (perhaps the most notable, the fables of Walter Duranty while covering events in the Soviet Union for The New York Times); however, there was a real belief that journalists did adhere to ethical standards of conduct.

As we know today, those journalistic ethics have gone the way of the Betamax player. There are a number of theories as to why this has happened. Some hold water; some do not. However, only a fool could fail to see that American journalism, as typified by the mainstream media, is failing. Newspaper after newspaper has shuttered their doors. (In my own state of Ohio, one of the leading newspapers, The Youngstown Vindicator, simply gave up the ghost and went out of business.) Others have been swallowed up by media conglomerates. (The Columbus Dispatch itself was bought up by Gatehouse Media and then became part of the merger with Gannett Media.)

One would think that, in an environment such as this, newspaper owners and editors, along with their counterparts in broadcast media, would examine their practices and how they affect their readership/viewership. Sadly, that’s not going to happen.

One of the most telling statistics that I have read (concerning the media) was a poll conducted in the early 2000s. In that study of business and media elites, 9 out of 10 business leaders said that “people can be trusted.” In contrast, 7 out of 10 media leaders agreed with that statement. I suspect that today the gap is even greater.

Somewhere along the line, the mainstream media gave up on its mission to inform and sought, instead, to indoctrinate. (The New York Times abhorrent “1619 Project” readily comes to mind.) Their attitude toward news consumers changed from helpfulness to condescension. Instead of being above the social media mob, the MSM has eagerly joined in; sometimes with vitriol that has exceeded the most virulent of the Twitterati. While many in the MSM decry the tribalization in our society, they continue to contribute to it.

Why has the MSM become so wildly out of touch with their readers/viewers? I believe that there is conclusive evidence that, as the “old heads” in both the print and broadcast media have retired (or died), they have been replaced by younger, more radical journalists far more interested in converting news consumers rather than informing them. In conjunction, I believe that many media heads think of the news as entertainment rather than information. I don’t believe there’s any question that members of the MSM consider themselves superior to the viewing public.

Sadly, so assured are they in their own hubris, they will trot out such once-disgraced personalities as Howell Raines, Dan Rather and (Lyin’) Brian Williams, confident that we have forgotten their rank dishonesty. Can they not realize that for every story they report and for every statement they make, they are being fact-checked by an army of internet detectives? Do they even care?

I believe that the situation has gotten to the point that the MSM cannot be saved from themselves. For some inexplicable reason, they seem to believe that most, if not all, of their problems have been brought about by the alternative media. In reality, most of their wounds have been self-inflicted.

What is doubly tragic is that newspapers and local broadcast media do perform a great service to their communities with their local reporting. The aforementioned Youngstown Vindicator’s excellent reporting resulted in the conviction of nearly 70 local white-collar criminals and mafia members. The Dispatch has done similarly excellent work covering the opioid crisis and corruption in local politics.

However, this good work has been overshadowed by their rush leftward, culturally and politically. The MSM is little more than a faint shadow of its former self. For that reason, I will not be sorry to see its total demise. Perhaps something will come out of its ashes that we can someday have trust in.

There are 32 comments.

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  1. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    The decline started in the late sixties, when people went to journalism school so they could “Change the world”. Journalism schools contributed mightily by showing them not how to research and write a good and accurate story, but how to change the world. Indoctrination anyone?

    • #1
  2. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    What you’ve been seeing over the past 25 years, and especially over the past decade or so, is a return to the style of journalism that existed in America from its founding really up to the World War II era, except that the people running and working for the largest media outlets today don’t want to admit it.

    News in the days before the advent of broadcast news, and the consolidation of local newspapers that caused, used to be where you’d have multiple newspapers in cites, with each one staking out a point across the political spectrum. You’d have your pro-Democrat or pro-Republican papers, and various shadings in-between where readers knew what they were getting.

    It’s only when you get to the advent of radio and then TV news, the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine, and the loss of the multiple newspaper outlets in most cities that you ended up with this idea of some sort of nonpartisan media. Which it really wasn’t. But either by federal law or because the market wasn’t fractured yet by the internet, you had a media that was liberal in general in the major cities, but in a much narrower range than today (i.e. — The New York Times’ editorial page was just as muck-headed 50 years ago, but the left hated Abe Rosenthal because he wouldn’t let the news pages let their full progressive freak flags fly).

    The fracturing of the market by new online media outlets have caused the old-line media to move left, under the idea they can cater to those types of readers or viewers and maintain a smaller, but loyal audience. But they still want to operate under the pretense that it’s 1962 and they’re simply presenting all the news for everybody. And the lack of adults in charge means there’s no introspection about the loss of respect this has caused nationally, or there’s a fear if they moderate, they’ll lose their loyal progressives and then nobody will be reading or watching.

    • #2
  3. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    Hmm, the Columbus Dispatch Wikipedia page says that they are owned by Gannett / GateHouse Media.

    The GateHouse Media Wikipedia page gets pretty complicated. 

    I’ll admit to not knowing what is going on in the industry.

     

    • #3
  4. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    This seems as good a place as any to plug a fine article by Roger Kimball regarding the latest excursion by the New York Times into Fantasyland (hat tip: Powerline).

    https://newcriterion.com/issues/2020/1/1619-all-that

    • #4
  5. PHenry Member
    PHenry
    @PHenry

    I wonder how much of our trust in the old Big 3 news was misplaced.  Sure, they seemed to be all about the cold facts, but then, if we didn’t hear it from one of them or the NYT or Washington Post then we didn’t hear it at all.  

    No, I suspect that we have always been mislead by the media elites, but it became impossible to hide those stories previously smothered due to the internet.  

    • #5
  6. SkipSul Member
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    A fellow Columbusite!  I have come to think of the Dispatch as the incredible shrinking paper (for those of you outside of central Ohio, our local rag lives on, but has physically shrunken down to the point where it is tiny – any small and it will rival Readers’ Digest).  I cannot recall the last time I actually bought a copy.  Every now and again I’ll scan their online headlines, but nothing I’ve yet seen has ever suggested that any subscription investment would be worth it.  They just do not report any more.

    • #6
  7. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding
    @EKentGolding

    American Main Stream Media wishes OUR death.

    • #7
  8. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    This seems as good a place as any to plug a fine article by Roger Kimball regarding the latest excursion by the New York Times into Fantasyland (hat tip: Powerline).

    https://newcriterion.com/issues/2020/1/1619-all-that

    Thanks. I am about half-way through it now. 

     

    • #8
  9. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    A fellow Columbusite! I have come to think of the Dispatch as the incredible shrinking paper (for those of you outside of central Ohio, our local rag lives on, but has physically shrunken down to the point where it is tiny – any small and it will rival Readers’ Digest). I cannot recall the last time I actually bought a copy. Every now and again I’ll scan their online headlines, but nothing I’ve yet seen has ever suggested that any subscription investment would be worth it. They just do not report any more.

    Many thanks for your comments.  As I wrote, I do believe that their local reporting is pretty good, especially their coverage of the opiod crisis and the problems brought about by the PBMs concerning perscription drug prices. Alas, their dependence upon The New York Times and Washington Post for editorial content has not improved their newspaper.

    • #9
  10. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    American Main Stream Media wishes OUR death.

    You may not be that far off.  Very sad for all of us.

    • #10
  11. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    PHenry (View Comment):

    I wonder how much of our trust in the old Big 3 news was misplaced. Sure, they seemed to be all about the cold facts, but then, if we didn’t hear it from one of them or the NYT or Washington Post then we didn’t hear it at all.

    No, I suspect that we have always been mislead by the media elites, but it became impossible to hide those stories previously smothered due to the internet.

    Many thanks for your comments. They are spot on.  Slanting the news is one thing but not reporting it is an even bigger problem.  What really bugs me is that these folks actually believe that they’re getting away with something.  Perhaps the media “bubble” is so pervasive that they’re simply writing (and broadcasting) for their own “followers”.  

    • #11
  12. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    Hmm, the Columbus Dispatch Wikipedia page says that they are owned by Gannett / GateHouse Media.

    The GateHouse Media Wikipedia page gets pretty complicated.

    I’ll admit to not knowing what is going on in the industry.

     

    Sir, you are correct that the Dispatch is now owned by Gannett (their little blurb in the fine print currently reads “The Columbus Dispatch is published every day by Gannett”.) There have been so many mergers in the industry that it is almost impossible to determine who owns who. The Dispatch was formerly owned by the Wolf Family (prominent in the Columbus area) but they sold it to Gatehouse sometime back. 

    Thanks for your comments.

    • #12
  13. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    Hmm, the Columbus Dispatch Wikipedia page says that they are owned by Gannett / GateHouse Media.

    The GateHouse Media Wikipedia page gets pretty complicated.

    I’ll admit to not knowing what is going on in the industry.

    Sir, you are correct that the Dispatch is now owned by Gannett (their little blurb in the fine print currently reads “The Columbus Dispatch is published every day by Gannett”.) There have been so many mergers in the industry that it is almost impossible to determine who owns who.

    I think *that* might be the real story here.  And an explanation for what you’re seeing.

    • #13
  14. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    namlliT noD (View Comment):
    I’ll admit to not knowing what is going on in the industry.

    It would be good to hear @jameslileks thoughts on the changes in the newspaper industry.  I can’t imagine anybody with more expertise.

    • #14
  15. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    What you’ve been seeing over the past 25 years, and especially over the past decade or so, is a return to the style of journalism that existed in America from its founding really up to the World War II era, except that the people running and working for the largest media outlets today don’t want to admit it.

    News in the days before the advent of broadcast news, and the consolidation of local newspapers that caused, used to be where you’d have multiple newspapers in cites, with each one staking out a point across the political spectrum. You’d have your pro-Democrat or pro-Republican papers, and various shadings in-between where readers knew what they were getting.

    It’s only when you get to the advent of radio and then TV news, the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine, and the loss of the multiple newspaper outlets in most cities that you ended up with this idea of some sort of nonpartisan media. Which it really wasn’t. But either by federal law or because the market wasn’t fractured yet by the internet, you had a media that was liberal in general in the major cities, but in a much narrower range than today (i.e. — The New York Times’ editorial page was just as muck-headed 50 years ago, but the left hated Abe Rosenthal because he wouldn’t let the news pages let their full progressive freak flags fly).

    The fracturing of the market by new online media outlets have caused the old-line media to move left, under the idea they can cater to those types of readers or viewers and maintain a smaller, but loyal audience. But they still want to operate under the pretense that it’s 1962 and they’re simply presenting all the news for everybody. And the lack of adults in charge means there’s no introspection about the loss of respect this has caused nationally, or there’s a fear if they moderate, they’ll lose their loyal progressives and then nobody will be reading or watching.

    Can’t argue with any of your points. It’s sometimes difficult to peg a particular time when trends develop but I used Schweikart’s research  in fixing the 1920s as a starting point for when journalistic standards were developed.  During that time, the ASNE (American Society of Newspaper Editors) put out their “Canons of Journalism” which stated that the “primary purpose of gathering and distributing news and opinion is to serve the general welfare by informing the people and enabling them to make judgements on the issues”.  Contrast this with almost any of Dean Baquet’s (executive editor of the New York Times) comments regarding the coverage of Donald Trump.

    We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

    Thanks for your comments.

     

    • #15
  16. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    The decline started in the late sixties, when people went to journalism school so they could “Change the world”. Journalism schools contributed mightily by showing them not how to research and write a good and accurate story, but how to change the world. Indoctrination anyone?

    I believe you are correct. The sixties were an interesting time but we’re still reaping the whirlwind produced during this period. The music was great; the rest of it, not so much. 

    Thanks for your comments.

    • #16
  17. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    This seems as good a place as any to plug a fine article by Roger Kimball regarding the latest excursion by the New York Times into Fantasyland (hat tip: Powerline).

    https://newcriterion.com/issues/2020/1/1619-all-that

    Thanks for hooking everyone up to that article. One of the most disheartening things to come out of it is that some high school teachers are actually using it. Unreal.

    • #17
  18. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    What you’ve been seeing over the past 25 years, and especially over the past decade or so, is a return to the style of journalism that existed in America from its founding really up to the World War II era, except that the people running and working for the largest media outlets today don’t want to admit it.

    The fracturing of the market by new online media outlets have caused the old-line media to move left, under the idea they can cater to those types of readers or viewers and maintain a smaller, but loyal audience. But they still want to operate under the pretense that it’s 1962 and they’re simply presenting all the news for everybody. And the lack of adults in charge means there’s no introspection about the loss of respect this has caused nationally, or there’s a fear if they moderate, they’ll lose their loyal progressives and then nobody will be reading or watching.

    Can’t argue with any of your points. It’s sometimes difficult to peg a particular time when trends develop but I used Schweikart’s research in fixing the 1920s as a starting point for when journalistic standards were developed. During that time, the ASNE (American Society of Newspaper Editors) put out their “Canons of Journalism” which stated that the “primary purpose of gathering and distributing news and opinion is to serve the general welfare by informing the people and enabling them to make judgements on the issues”. Contrast this with almost any of Dean Baquet’s (executive editor of the New York Times) comments regarding the coverage of Donald Trump.

    We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

    Thanks for your comments.

    I do think you have to differentiate between the local media and the national media, where the former is more interested in the story, while the latter is more fixated on the narrative. There have been several  stories the national media tried to spin to fit their narrative that were foiled by local media reporting.

     

    • #18
  19. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    What you’ve been seeing over the past 25 years, and especially over the past decade or so, is a return to the style of journalism that existed in America from its founding really up to the World War II era, except that the people running and working for the largest media outlets today don’t want to admit it.

    The fracturing of the market by new online media outlets have caused the old-line media to move left, under the idea they can cater to those types of readers or viewers and maintain a smaller, but loyal audience. But they still want to operate under the pretense that it’s 1962 and they’re simply presenting all the news for everybody. And the lack of adults in charge means there’s no introspection about the loss of respect this has caused nationally, or there’s a fear if they moderate, they’ll lose their loyal progressives and then nobody will be reading or watching.

    Can’t argue with any of your points. It’s sometimes difficult to peg a particular time when trends develop but I used Schweikart’s research in fixing the 1920s as a starting point for when journalistic standards were developed. During that time, the ASNE (American Society of Newspaper Editors) put out their “Canons of Journalism” which stated that the “primary purpose of gathering and distributing news and opinion is to serve the general welfare by informing the people and enabling them to make judgements on the issues”. Contrast this with almost any of Dean Baquet’s (executive editor of the New York Times) comments regarding the coverage of Donald Trump.

    We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

    Thanks for your comments.

    I do think you have to differentiate between the local media and the national media, where the former is more interested in the story, while the latter is more fixated on the narrative. There have been several stories the national media tried to spin to fit their narrative that were foiled by local media reporting.

     

    Again, can’t argue with that. I find myself, more and more, going to a couple of small weekly newspapers for my “newsfix”.  I suspect that I am not alone in doing this.

    • #19
  20. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    I do think you have to differentiate between the local media and the national media, where the former is more interested in the story, while the latter is more fixated on the narrative. There have been several stories the national media tried to spin to fit their narrative that were foiled by local media reporting.

     

    Again, can’t argue with that. I find myself, more and more, going to a couple of small weekly newspapers for my “newsfix”. I suspect that I am not alone in doing this.

    The Broward Sheriff’s Department failures at Stoneman-Douglas, the Jesse Smollett hoax, and the Clinton-Loretta Lynch tarmac meeting were all examples of local media providing information that the national media either didn’t particularly want to know or didn’t work to find out, because for too many of them, stories outside of their normal Beltway-Acela Corridor haunts are only worth covering insofar as they can be used to fit a pre-determined narrative.

    The local media, with more local sources and more local people who know the truth, is less about politicizing stories right out of the gate. So you’ll have something like CNN going down to Florida to stage an accusatory Town Hall with Sheriff Israel as the hero while Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch are the designated villains, at the same time the Miami Herald is publishing a story showing how Israel’s department failed to act (because the local reporters were told by Coral Springs police that they had to enter the school while the Broward SO deputies held back).

    The national media came to the story with their narrative already set, and would have stuck with it, as they would have stuck with the Smollett hoax assault or never reported on the Sky Harbor Airport meeting, if the local media hadn’t reported details that blew up the narrative.

     

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    We live in Polk Country, FL, and couldn’t take the bias of the Orlando Sentinel. (We do get the Wall Street Journal.) So we decided to subscribe to The Ledger out of Lakeland, FL, because it was more local. For a couple of years my husband went nuts over the front page articles. The bias of the AP writers which they used were scandalous and outrageous. But the Ledger was also bought out in the Gannett merger. The change is very obvious. The front page above the fold is almost always local news, written by a Ledger writer or USA Today (which isn’t nearly as bad as the AP). They seem to be making an effort to be objective. I don’t know if they dumped the AP writers or if they appear elsewhere in the paper. And the op-ed page is terrific; in fact, they are becoming more conservative all the time. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

    • #21
  22. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    namlliT noD (View Comment):
    I’ll admit to not knowing what is going on in the industry.

    It would be good to hear @jameslileks thoughts on the changes in the newspaper industry. I can’t imagine anybody with more expertise.

    Lileks is very good.  For a pretty good history of the New York Times (like it or not, it’s still the source for a ton of newspapers in this country) take a look at “Gray Lady Down” by William McGowan.  It was written back in 2010 but it’s still relevant today.

    • #22
  23. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    CACrabtree: The Dispatch was formerly owned by the Wolf Family (prominent in the Columbus area) but they sold it to Gatehouse sometime back. 

    The Wolfe family has completely cashed out in Columbus, at least media-wise. They once owned WBNS radio and television, The Dispatch and the now defunct Ohio News Network cable channel. They were the movers and shakers in that town’s media landscape for 116 years.

    Somewhere I still have my Dispatch Broadcasting ID. 

    • #23
  24. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Twenty-five years might be a bit late.  It was 1995 when I fired my then-local paper, the Sun Times of Myrtle Beach, for egregious bias.  I’m confident the entire profession of “journalism” has always been a dishonest cabal, at least from before the Second World War.

    • #24
  25. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    namlliT noD (View Comment):
    It would be good to hear @jameslileks thoughts on the changes in the newspaper industry. I can’t imagine anybody with more expertise.

    You have to say my name three times to get me to appear; it’s the Beetlejuice Effect.

    Two things kill local papers, and bias isn’t either. The first is short-shrifting local news. In the heyday of papers, they had to cover everything, but now everyone can get national and international news online, and no one’s going to pick up the local rag to get an edited-down version of a wire story that was cold yesterday noon. Local is what newspapers can do better than anyone else, because bloggers and Nextdoor and all the other new-media outlets aren’t going to do the stuff people want to read about their town. Crime, politics, corruption, altruism, celebs, sewer-board meetings. 

    Alas: big chain ownership starves papers of the resources needed to do these things, and the papers end up running wire news and feature-fluff. Then they get thin, and there are more layoffs, and the death spiral begins.

    The second deadly factor: the people who enjoy reading an actual paper product are dying off, and the Youth of America has no affinity for the medium. We had some focus groups with Youths, and not a few were completely unaware we had this newsroom with lots of people writing news, and big meetings where grown-ups talked about the paper. They had no model in their heads for it. 

    So you have to get them to visit online, and eventually pay, and that’s tricky. Takes a lot of clicks to turn casual visitors into customers, but we’re doing it. The ad model for online is different than paper, too. Less lucrative, and there are pitiless metrics that show what works and what doesn’t.

    In the heart of the newsroom is a big monitor that shows what people are reading, and what they’re not. Based on this info, the front page of the homepage is constantly tweaked to boost the popular stories and introduce new content. What was once a daily Pronouncement, the received wisdom packaged for an audience that expected a certain mix of information, is now a kaleidoscope that evolves minute-to-minute. But! We still do long-form pieces that take weeks or months to report, we don’t clutter the front page with buzzfeedy chaff, and we take pride in putting out locally-written pieces buttressed by great visuals and videos. We opened up a new bureau in a big city to the north. We sent out reporters to tell the stories outside of the Mpls-St. Paul area – small-town church attendance, rural community funeral home losses, curling tournaments. We’re here to tell the stories of the state of Minnesota.

    Consequently, we are a newspaper that is hiring people. Our newsroom skews younger every year. We’re adding sections that people really like – one’s devoted to Pets, because why not, and another, called Mnspirations, is basically “Good news about good things and good people.” The most audacious thing we did recently was launch a glossy Sunday magazine, which has been quite successful. In short, we committed to online without abandoning print, and made local the overriding focus. The result is a damned fine newspaper. 

    1/2

    • #25
  26. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    I said “bias” wasn’t a killer. It is with some papers, if they cut local coverage, run wires, have a few old crusty cranks writing lefty-legacy columns, and hand off the features to someone captivated by every shiny prog-bauble that pops up in the culture coverage.

    There is a monoculture in journalism, but I think it has less to do  with advocacy than a set of shared assumptions unchallenged since college days. Too many boomer journos still think they’re outer-rim “question authority” types in an era when the progressive precepts are now the default positions. Their skepticism about local prog pols or the outcome of progressive policies rarely translates into a reevaluation of progressive ideas, or the effect of their implementation. This manifests itself in the larger papers, whose wire copy clatters down to smaller papers and poisons the local brand.

    2/2

    • #26
  27. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    I said “bias” wasn’t a killer. It is with some papers, if they cut local coverage, run wires, have a few old crusty cranks writing lefty-legacy columns, and hand off the features to someone captivated by every shiny prog-bauble that pops up in the culture coverage.

    There is a monoculture in journalism, but I think it has less to do with advocacy than a set of shared assumptions unchallenged since college days. Too many boomer journos still think they’re outer-rim “question authority” types in an era when the progressive precepts are now the default positions. Their skepticism about local prog pols or the outcome of progressive policies rarely translates into a reevaluation of progressive ideas, or the effect of their implementation. This manifests itself in the larger papers, whose wire copy clatters down to smaller papers and poisons the local brand.

    2/2

    New  York Times columnist and former editorial page editor Gail Collins came down to Dallas in the spring of 2000 and gave an amazing speech to APME, in that she basically said because George W. Bush was going to be the nominee for president, the national media was going to be coming down to Texas  to do stories, and will get things wrong, but there’s really nothing the in-state news people, including those at the larger dailies, were going to be able to do about it.

    The AP-Texas bureau chief offered up a pretty pointed rebuttal the following day during his speech, about Collins’ casual lack of concern for the errors. Left unsaid was the idea that the errors were all going to go in the same direction, and that’s one of, if not the main thing 20 years down the line that enrages people about big media political coverage.  Virtually all the errors at the national level seem to track to the left, either due to maliciousness or because the story fits the reporter’s biases and is too good to fact check. And that national attitude negatively affects opinions on local news coverage.

    • #27
  28. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    We live in Polk Country, FL, and couldn’t take the bias of the Orlando Sentinel. (We do get the Wall Street Journal.) So we decided to subscribe to The Ledger out of Lakeland, FL, because it was more local. For a couple of years my husband went nuts over the front page articles. The bias of the AP writers which they used were scandalous and outrageous. But the Ledger was also bought out in the Gannett merger. The change is very obvious. The front page above the fold is almost always local news, written by a Ledger writer or USA Today (which isn’t nearly as bad as the AP). They seem to be making an effort to be objective. I don’t know if they dumped the AP writers or if they appear elsewhere in the paper. And the op-ed page is terrific; in fact, they are becoming more conservative all the time. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

    For a few years in the early 80s, I lived in the Tampa Bay area. The editoral content of the St. Petersburg Times was really something to behold and the Tampa Tribune wasn’t far behind.  As I understand it, those two newspapers have since merged. As far as it and The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, I suppose that’s a story in and of itself.

    • #28
  29. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    Hmm, the Columbus Dispatch Wikipedia page says that they are owned by Gannett / GateHouse Media.

    The GateHouse Media Wikipedia page gets pretty complicated. 

    So it appears that Gannett/GateHouse owns about 500 community newspapers.  

    Question: Is Gannett/GateHouse their own category of newspaper?

    • #29
  30. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    The Seattle Times likes to parrot its “independent journalism” line every chance it gets, but its majority content is NY Times, Washington Post, and AP-generated.  However, they do have some pretty good local investigative reporters, and they do some big stories well, like the one on the neurosurgeons who were operating on three patients at once, and generating numerous malpractice suits and injured patients.

    I gave up buying the Sunday rag when they started charging $3.00 for it.

    • #30

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