Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Commentary: Cart or Horse?

by Sam Mela

From the New York Times Editorial Notebook comes a piece titled "When the Watchdogs Don’t Bark", by Maura J. Casey,December 30, 2008.

According to Ms. Casey
The Tribune Company’s troubles are in good part because of the large debt Samuel Zell incurred when he bought the business. But the economic downturn and the Internet’s inroads on print advertising have taken a toll on all newspapers.
She notes that:
. . . less coverage of loopholes in Connecticut’s campaign financing law; few have investigated why Connecticut is burdened with the highest electricity rates in the continental United States . . . It’s hard to see what would fill the void when its newspapers die.
She finally concludes:
If the power of journalism is measured by its ability to spark anxiety in government officials, it’s hard to imagine a more relaxing time to hold public office.

Because so many printed newspapers are stopping delivery and going out of business, we're seeing a lot of commentary by professional journalists like Ms. Patton wondering what we will do without "the news".

My question -- what did we do for the last 20 years?

Many of us believe that professional journalism has been dead for a long time. We think that 2008 just happens to be the year when we bury the stinking body to clear a path for whatever fresh capitalist energies emerge to fill the news void.

Lately, all newspapers seem to do is print the same news in the morning that you saw on the internet the night before. This is value? This drives the public discourse?

We've contacted the NY Times for a response from Ms. Casey.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Former Media General Employee Speaks Out

Journalist Becky Blanton spoke out about her experiences working for Media General Corporation. Her comments were originally posted on the "Sticks of Fire" blog, on June 23rd, 2008.
According to Ms. Blanton
I worked for Media General until last week. I was part of the move to “Convergence.” They don’t get it. They never will. MG is TOTALLY incompetent when it comes to online operations. They turned down all attempts from staffers who understand what it means and how it works to protect their own jobs. They’re understaffed, overworked and undertrained. Their sites are hard to read, contain national instead of local news and they don’t listen to reader feedback.
“Convergence” to MG means firing more people and combining jobs to increase profit. It means weaker content, poorer coverage and unhappy readers. Add to that the fact that the turnover is incredible - most folks in Danville leave within 6 months of arriving…and the fact they chase talent away - morale sucks and so does management…all part of how they are failing to plan and thus planning to fail. Read my blog for more on the two EEOC complaints and the reporter who filmed women’s breasts without their knowledge or consent and then showed them around the newsroom….you’ll get an idea of why MG sucks from the corporate level on down…

Ms. Blanton has posted additional comments about Media General and the Danville Register Bee on her blog at


"Blanton, Becky. "media general killing convergence?." Sticks of Fire: a Tampa Blog. 23 June 2008. 29 Dec. 20


Newspaper advertising down almost $2 billion in Q3 2008

The Newspaper Association of America says that U.S. newspaper advertising revenue fell 18 percent in the third quarter of 2008, a decline of almost $2 billion. The fall started with a decline of 1.5 percent in q3 of 2006. Even online ad revenue dropped fell 3 percent from $773.0 million to $749.8 million


"Newspaper Ad Revenue Falls Record $2 Billion."The Huffington Post. 1 Dec. 2008. 29 Dec. 2008


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Call for Articles

Topic: The Decline of American Newspapers

As you know, each year the newspaper industry hands out a lot of awards to itself; but with circulation and advertising revenue in free fall, isn't it time to start talking about what the newspaper industry is doing wrong?

Maybe they're not doing anything wrong. Maybe it's the internet, television, the decline of literacy. Maybe. But how can we know without information from the people who are stopping their subscriptions, walking past newsstands, cutting off their advertisments. You know . . . the secret ingredient of capitalism -- the market . . . the people with the money.

We're looking for articles!!!

We want writers who can explain what happened and what is happening?

Did you have a bad experience with a reporter or an editor? Were facts ignored or corrections unpublished? Send us your story.

Maybe you had a good experience. Maybe you think the government should step in with bailout money and save the paper news media. Tell us why.

Send your articles to:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

COMMENTARY: Susan Estrich is wrong

by Sam Mela

An editorial piece by Susan Estrich titled "Why we need newspapers" appeared in the online edition of the Miami Herald this morning. See

According to Ms. Estrich
The truth, whether you want to admit it or not, is that what drives public discourse today is still the work of the nation's top newspapers: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and, yes, even my much snickered about Los Angeles Times. If they can't do their job, they won't be the only ones who suffer. All of us who depend on their reporters and editors will suffer, and so will the public discourse about important issues.

I don't agree with Ms. Estrich.

First, she's blurring the distinction between news gathering organizations and news publishing organizations.

Second, she lumped the Wall Street Journal in with the Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. Sloppy. That's like comparing a Honda Accord to a Ford Pinto. One survived and the other didn't.

Third, good news organizations will survive. They may restructure or they may be purchased, but capitalism keeps the good and discards the bad. These companies aren't Pravda. Their survival is not guaranteed by the government. Is that what Ms. Estrich wants? Or does she want the free market to decide? You know, the people who come to the door in their bathrobe with a cup of coffee in their hand and pick up the paper? No mention of them in her article.

Fourth, many of us are tired of the Tyranny of the Press. We cut off home delivery. We stopped patronizing news stands. In the last election, the press seemed to imply that there were only two choices -- (1) The Senator who voted for the bailout (McCain); and (2) The Senator who voted for the bailout (Obama). What about Ralph Nader? Ignored. What about Ron Paul? Ignored. What about Chuck Baldwin? Ignored. So much for the vaunted "public discourse" Ms. Estrich is flapping her arms about.

30 years ago, in Economics class, we learned about "entry barriers". Entry barriers and the economics of scale have allowed news organizations to publish a bland, biased, monolithic product for a long time. The public resented it, but they needed the sports page, the classifieds, the style page, and Dilbert; so they tolerated inferior news reporting and editorial bias. But recessions, like the one we are in now, have a cleansing effect in a capitalist economy. The weakest businesses fail, leaving a vacuum for stronger, fresher, more agressive and creative businesses to fill. That is exactly what is happening with the Newspaper industry.

I think it's a good thing.

Agree? Disagree? Write me.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Columnist says newspapers provide "civic conscience"

Georgie Anne Geyer writes for Universal Press Syndicate. She had this to say about the decline of newspapers:

"My quarrel with my friends who brag about reading news on the Internet is that they are taking an active step in the formation of a country without a civic conscience. Only newspapers can provide this, with their multitalented staffs and with the scope of their reporting. Without them, welcome to a truly depressing future - and please, don’t let anyone tell you it had to be."


Geyer, Georgie Anne. "The Columbus Dispatch : Georgie Anne Geyer: Wall Street's affliction also is the bane of newspapers." The Columbus Dispatch. 17 Dec. 2008. 27 Dec. 2008


Oregonian Delivery stopped in Eugene-Springfield area

The Oregonian newspaper will cease daily deliveries in the Eugene-Springfield area of Oregon. Sunday deliveries will continue.

Daily circulation declined from 348,468 to 283,321 between 2000 and 2008.

Likewise, Sunday circulation declined from 431,247 to 344,950 between 2000 and 2008.

Other papers have recently halted delivery as well. Oregon’s fifth-largest paper, the Medford Mail Tribune, plans to stop delivering in Curry County, Northern California, and parts of Josephine County.


Mosley, Joe. "Oregonian to halt delivery in Eugene-Springfield area" The Register-Guard. 13 Dec. 2008. 26 Dec. 2008

East Iowa Herald to suspend print operations

"declining advertising and classifieds revenue" were blamed for the fact that the East Iowa Herald newspaper plans to suspend print operations after the Dec. 31, 2008 edition.


"The East Iowa Herald East Iowa Herald to suspend print operations." The East Iowa Herald Community News and Information. 25 Dec. 2008. 26 Dec. 2008 <>.

Code of Ethics, Society of Professional Journalists

Here is a link to the Society of Professional Journalists "Code of Ethics" page. The Four Sections of the Professional Journalists Code of Ethics
  1. Seek Truth and Report It
  2. Minimize Harm
  3. Act Independently
  4. Be Accountable
How are America's "professional journalists" performing? Tell us about your local television station. Tell us about your local newspaper. Tell us about our national news media. Send your comments and information to