Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Complex story like GM and Spring Hill plant shows weakness of TV media to provide needed analysis

I am more than willing to leave most of the real and meaningful journalism in Middle Tennessee to the local TV stations, led by NewsChannel 5 and WSMV Channel 4.

But when the story is complex and requires extensive analysis as with GM's need for a bailout and the resulting fate of the Spring Hill plant, TV comes up short. NewsChannel 5 featured coverage this evening of a town hall meeting between auto workers and Sen. Bob Corker that shed no light on what could be one of the most cataclysmic economic events in Midstate history.

The plant's status is most uncertain, as GM says it is going to have close at least five plants and layoff 20,000 workers in this country. By the time it is finished negotiating with the U.S. Treasury Department and Congress for a successful bailout, it will have to cut more. The Spring Hill plant builds Chevys, but only for a short period of time when it comes to auto building. Other plants have a much longer history with the brand. Its original product, Saturn, is being phased out.

And if GM is forced into bankruptcy, the company may well be dissembled and sold off in parts to other companies to pay off bondholders. Those buying companies then will determine if they just want all the equipment inside of the plants or will operate the plant at much lower wages for much fewer workers.

All these options mean drastic economic consequences for Tennessee and the economies for Williamson and Maury counties.

Today's Tennessean features an incredibly inadequate story that analyzed none of these consequences and the political play locally and nationally that will be required. It was a rehashed wire story. So the people of the Midstate were simply left to wonder.

I was distressed to learn this week that probably the most capable business reporter locally to pull off such an analysis, Richard Lawson of the City Paper, has been reduced to very parttime status because of budget cuts.

I find it incredible and shocking that amid the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, The Tennessean has folded its Business Section into its Local Section like a second class citizen and the City Paper has sharply cut back the contributions of one of its two best reporters. Ms. Cheap offering advice on money saving shortcuts just doesn't do it for the gravity of the times.

The people of the Midstate crave the kind of quality and extensive business and financial coverage to provide direction on investing, protecting all their assets and locating the industries for job opportunities. They also need someone watching their local governments for unnecessary and wasteful spending projects.

I appreciate everything local TV does to compensate for the gross failures of its print colleagues. But the GM story is beyond its capability due to time constraints. And the people of Tennessee have a cataclysm sneaking up on them that will make hard times even worse.

No comments: