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Propagating Fear

I don't know exactly when it happened, but sometime ago I decided to secede from politics. On either side of the coin, you have idiots in "independent media" that are using the very same tactics as major media outlets to spread a message.

Chew on this excerpt for just a moment:
A survey of the carnage: The Charlotte Observer will cut 123 jobs, or 11 percent of its workforce. The Miami Herald plans 250 job cuts, 17 percent of workers there. The Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky. is dropping 17 positions. In Raleigh, N.C., the News & Observer is cutting a total of 70 jobs, 16 of them in the newsroom.
Doesn't that make you fear today's U.S. economy? Notice how he is using percentages to make it seem larger. Even if it is only on a subliminal level, these kinds of facts are going straight to your fear gland.

What if we instead looked at some historical data? I bet you would find relatively similar numbers. He does have one valid point, however:
But not all will suffer equally. As the Lexington Newspaper Guild pointedly observed, McClatchy gave CEO Gary Pruitt an $800,000 bonus last year and just hired a new corporate vice president, even as the company's stock was spiraling downward...
Nevertheless, the point of this article is to point out the necessity of independent media. Yet all of those fear-inducing numbers don't have to get brought up.

The reason is simple: corporate media is corrupt.




ANALYSIS: Big Media cuts show independent media still essential

by Chris Kromm

Reports that newspaper publisher McClatchy Co. is slashing 1,400 jobs this month -- 10 percent of its national workforce -- sent shockwaves through the media industry and served as a grim reminder of the precarious state of newspapers.

But McClatchy's massive bloodletting raised a bigger question: When newspapers don't have reporters, who's keeping the public informed and shedding light on the state of democracy?

The cuts will be especially hard in the South, where McClatchy owns 15 newspapers. And although McClatchy insists cuts in news reporting will be less than seen at Gannett and other chains, newsrooms will definitely feel the knife.

A survey of the carnage: The Charlotte Observer will cut 123 jobs, or 11 percent of its workforce. The Miami Herald plans 250 job cuts, 17 percent of workers there. The Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky. is dropping 17 positions. In Raleigh, N.C., the News & Observer is cutting a total of 70 jobs, 16 of them in the newsroom.

But not all will suffer equally. As the Lexington Newspaper Guild pointedly observed, McClatchy gave CEO Gary Pruitt an $800,000 bonus last year and just hired a new corporate vice president, even as the company's stock was spiraling downward:

The Guild does not believe it is humane when employees who have put in a lifetime of service to McClatchy and KnightRidder are thrown to the curb, while McClatchy's excessive corporate bureaucracy remains untouched.
McClatchy's corporate mindset -- so common in today's Big Media -- offers clues to the real problems facing newspapers. It's not necessarily readership: As McClatchy admits, online readership grew 41 percent in the first quarter of 2008. The problem is an economic mismatch between declining ad revenues and shareholder demands for high profit margins on one hand, and the money needed for in-depth reporting on the other.

Profit-driven journalism doesn't just shrink the number of reporters readers can count on to do in-depth reporting -- it also affects the kind of coverage we get.

For example, stories about the economy are usually told from the standpoint of business -- not everyday workers and consumers. A new study by the Center for American Progress finds that TV and newspaper economic coverage heavily tilts towards the viewpoint of economic elites. In stories on the minimum wage and trade, "the views of businesses were sourced more than one-and-a-half times as frequently as those of workers," the study found. In stories on unemployment, "businesses were quoted or cited over six times as frequently as were workers."

So much for the "liberal media."

Big Media will always be motivated to chase higher profits -- and the news coverage that will guarantee big returns. But democracy demands a different bottom line -- especially today. As journalist Bill Moyers said in his speech to the National Conference on Media Reform earlier this month in Minnesota:

[W]hat we need to know to make democracy work for all Americans is compromised by media institutions deeply embedded in the power structures of society ... [O]ur dominant media are ultimately accountable only to corporate boards whose mission is not "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for the whole body of our republic, but the aggrandizement of corporate executives and shareholders; organizations whose self-styled mandate is not holding public and private power accountable so there is an equilibrium in society, but aggregating their interlocking interests; organizations whose reward comes from the manufacturing of news and information as profitable consumer commodities rather than the means to empower morally responsible citizens.
As Thomas Jefferson said, "Information is the currency of democracy." In-depth coverage and hard-hitting investigative reporting is vital to the health of our politics and culture -- whether it turns a buck or not. The need for fearless, independent media -- like Facing South and others -- is needed now more than ever.

You can do your part to support independent media and investigative reporting with a donation to the Institute's Investigative Reporting Fund. Please visit here to make your tax-deductible contribution today.


Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
mantispid
Jun. 28th, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)
Isn't part of the reason that more and more people get their news online instead of in print form?
faucon9
Jun. 29th, 2008 09:52 pm (UTC)
That's the thing - newspaper subscriptions haven't dropped, except for newspapers that were already having subscriber problems (likely because they suck).

Costs have gone up for newspapers, plain and simple. They're not minimizing the size of the newspaper, thinning the paper itself, and increasing subscription fees because they can't get readers - those would all be horrible decisions if they're trying to win new subscribers. Oil has gone up, and it's kicking newspapers in the distribution groin.

The people who read papers 10 years ago still do for the same reason - they like sitting at the breakfast table with something solid, portable, and informative in their hands. They also feel that online news sources aren't as credible, and will suffer through the higher prices to have what they prefer.

The only time online consumption spiked was during the writer strike. Television consumers are the ones going online, not newspaper readers.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )