Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Seattle P-I goes to web, but it won't succeed; newspapers must first help themselves in learning to be fair, objective and ideogically diverse
Big newspapers increasingly are going the way of the dinosaur deserve no great tears or periods of mourning.
All the lamenting over their decline, including by syndicated conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, are so self-serving. They claim the loss of the big newspapers is a calamity for democracy. In reality, Parker sees her income declining with each paper folding.
Yet just in Nashville alone, it is the Big 3 TV stations led by NewsChannel 5 that have performed quite well in being a watchdog for the people as The Tennessean has decreased in page number and overall commitment. Investigative reporter Phil Williams does more research and produces more supporting documents in one project than The Tennessean does in a year.
Let's quit with the bigotry here. TV journalism is equal to superior to the print version now being put out by most big city newspapers, with the exception of The New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times.
Our democracy will survive quite well. And hopefully, some of the best print journalists will go to TV. Williams used to work for The Tennessean.
Today, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer went to all web, dumping its print operations. And the web venture will fail. That's because it maintains the same bad attitude among its staff concerning what's fair and the need to get out of the office to learn about what the people want.
One of my favorite liberal media critics, columnist Bill Steigerwald, just wrote his last piece for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Here is a brief excerpt on what he fought all his 36-year career:
As a reporter, I've tried my best to be accurate, fair and truthful. I've always been aware of the difference between news and opinion, between balance and bias, and between being a government watchdog and a government lapdog.
And I have always known that every journalist and every editor I have ever worked with was helplessly subjective in their politics and in their definition of what news and bias were and were not.
Trust me, big-city daily newspapers don't go out of their way to achieve ideological diversity. About 90 percent of my work mates over the years were either avowed liberal Democrats or didn't know it. Reagan Republicans were virtually nonexistent. Until I got to the Trib, I was always the staff's lonely libertarian.
Newspapers have preached diversity by race and ethnicity, and done a poor job of it, particularly when it comes to producing an African-American journalism legacy at The Tennessean. And The Tennessean so happens to be located in the same city where the Freedom Forum has a diversity institute to produce journalists of color.
So someone is dropping the ball, on purpose.
Yet in a broader sense, newspapers such as The Tennessean have simply refused to invite intellectual diversity into their decision-making ranks. Conservatives were believed lazy or not caring for the community. Meanwhile, Tennessee went deep red in the last presidential election. Still, I believe Tennesseans to be good and decent people.
Across the country, FOXNEWS has become a powerhouse because of alienated TV viewers, due to the bias of the Big 3 national networks. When consumers don't have to take it anymore, they leave in droves.
Meanwhile, to counter that trend, those newspapers that try and throw a carrot or two to conservative readers piss off the liberal ones who are used to only hearing the side they want. This is what happens when fairness is not the guide, particularly on the news pages.
The P-I and any other newspaper that tries to go to web will fail because people don't believe they should pay for this content. And that is the only way to make a profit.
Print journalism will now exist in a much smaller, community size. It will be locally owned and come out less frequently. And the people will still be served and this democracy will survive.