The Deconstruction Of CommunitiesJune 16, 2012 - Author: newscoma - Comments are closed
I’ve been watching the layoffs and restructuring of papers in Alabama and Louisiana by its’ parent company Advance. Having been on both sides of the newsroom and downsized by a paper, I always watch these things. I guess that I am a masochist at heart.
I am old school. I see communities losing their centers. That’s my two cents on the matter because I just can’t imagine major cities only having a newspaper available three days a week, like New Orleans. And a third of folks in that city do not even have internet access.
The thought that has run through my head all week (and for the past three years, actually) is that I am watching the deconstruction of community. Journalist are a dying breed being slaughtered 1,000 paper cuts at a time.
The cutbacks and consolidation raise another question central to the nature of a local newspaper. What makes it local?
It’s not where the press is located; plenty of papers are trucked in from outside plants. It doesn’t seem to be based on where someone sits when he place stories and photos on a page.
Is it a local paper if you don’t have an editorial board to weigh in on matters of local importance, to call out the school board and complain about lousy streets? Is it a local paper if you rely on stringers to cover the big football games and miss the Cinderalla story that a beat reporter would’ve nailed?
Advance seems to think a local newspaper is three things: a small group of reporters, advertisers who need your paper whether it’s published three days or seven, and some readers. Fewer, every day.
With the recent news that Gannett and Scripps papers are slowly but surely going behind paywalls and PR teams are pitching more stories to fill space with targeted stories, I can’t help but think that news, especially political news about our state, is not going to get to the masses who need it the most.
I’ve mentioned before that in certain parts of this state, getting news out of the Capitol can be a challenge. We are losing, even in this state, an institutionalized knowledge of states’, including ours, histories. News used to be local, state and national. Now it is dictated by national, state is still in the middle somewhere although the day of bureaus is becoming a thing of the past and then local.
I wrote this after meeting Rep. Jim Cooper earlier this year with other online scribes:
I believe a lot of this has to do with in many places in this state there isn’t local Tennessee news on television due to proximity. In Northwest Tennessee, if a family is getting certain satellite packages, local news may be coming out of Paducah, Sikeston or Cape Girardeau so local news comes out of three border states that aren’t Tennessee.
Yes, we can buy a newspaper and I regularly do (I like the feel of the deadwood in my hands. I guess that is the former journalist in me.) Yet in certain areas, it’s hard to find newspapers that are covering politics and policy that impacts the average citizen. Pundits, yes, actual straight news, not so much.
Journalists are necessary in being actual watchdogs. I also think this is a time where entrepreneurs could be crucial and make a difference like these folks did North Carolina.
Let’s also remember that in the state of Tennessee, we have constitutional amendments going on the ballot in 2014. If we don’t start now educating everyone on the long-term ramifications which come from these items now, then there will most likely be a great deal of confusion.
But I digress.
I see the deconstruction of communities in so many ways when it comes to the current state of newspapers and not everyone has internet access although I think smartphones are most likely the wave of where things are headed. And I do agree with Michael Silence. We both have been on both sides of a newsroom and have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Watching newspapers and the profession of journalism evolve into corporate mandates coming from several states away where local is secondary, it is hard to watch.
Monetizing content is important, I think everyone gets that.
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