January 9, 2009



The death of journalism
by Jim Hightower

A Detroit newspaper executive has announced a startling breakthrough: “We think it’s time to take a geometric leap forward in what we’ve known as newspapers,” he informed the masses.

And, with that, he leapt right off the media cliff. His “breakthrough” is to cancel daily home deliveries of the Detroit papers, leaving customers to stumble out each day to find a news rack that’ll swallow a bunch of their quarters and (maybe) cough up a pared-down version of the real thing. Or, he says, people can read a virtual edition of the paper on the web — even though most Detroiters don’t use the Internet.

The printed media is shrinking itself in so many ways these days. Take the Cox chain, which owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Austin American-Statesman, and 15 other papers. It is abandoning its Washington bureau. Even with a new administration taking power and making big policy moves that’ll affect every reader of the Cox papers, the chain is taking its journalists off the national beat — and eliminating their investigative jobs. Other papers are making similar cutbacks, claiming that there’s no need for multiple news organizations chasing the same stories when they can all get feeds from a couple of wire bureaus.

Yeah, that’s the old dig-it-out American journalistic spirit, isn’t it? Let someone feed us the news. Holy Mark Twain!

Some news executives want to move even farther from the actual source of news. For example, the honcho of MediaNews Group, which controls 54 U.S. newspapers, says: “One thing we’re exploring is having one news desk for all of our newspapers, maybe even offshore.” So whether covering Congress or your city council, the breaking news will come to you from someone without a clue watching a webcast from a cubicle in India. These beancounters in charge of our newspapers are saving money — but they're killing journalism.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown— visit www.jimhightower.com


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