Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Continuing Decline of Local News Reporting

Yes, it's another post full of more high-quality "re-purposed" content. Most of what's below is copied from some Facebook comments earlier today regarding the accelerating demise of genuine news reporting across our nation. The topic has been on my mind lately, but really struck me today.

This morning I found out that our local beat reporter for the Spinal Column newsweekly was laid off last night. Later today, I saw this Facebook status update from a friend of mine who is an education reporter in Dallas/Fort Worth: "Kent needs a parachute, because the airplane that is my career is about hit a mountain." Apparently his paper's parent company is rolling out a new round of layoffs and pay/benefits cuts.

All of which led to the status update below, and the subsequent comments from myself and others. I don't have a solution to the problem at hand. But I do think that it's a genuine problem and that it will have serious long-term consequences for our society if we don't find a new way to support good local reporting. We need to find a new model for providing this incredibly important service.

John Magee Status Update: John is very sad to have heard of more local news layoffs. I wonder where this will all lead, and I don't like where we're going.

Adam Goodman: Who and where?

John Magee: Our local beat reporter for the Spinal Column. The rapid disappearance of municipal beat reporting around Metro Detroit over the past five years has been truly astonishing. Really, there used to be news reported about things other than "sexting" scandals.

Stacey Tucker-Blosch: Stay tuned for the one-size fits all "news"... Kind of like what's happened to radio stations, generic with a fabricated edge.

Andrew Mutch: No more coverage of Village meetings?

Marti Bush: Maybe we could be come our own reporters and submit local news items to our local papers. And seriously I have no interest in sexting! But am interested in how my community is affected by the changes happening. . .

John Magee: I'm sure they'll re-assign one of the other reporters for at least occasional coverage. But it's really and truly getting pretty thin on the ground all over Metro Detroit. And that's bad for all of us who live here, even the folks who never read the news.

About the best idea that I've seen to reverse the trend is to move towards endowed non-profits that have serious municipal and government reporting as a core mission. I've always gotten along very well with our local press, but -- and I say this *as* an elected official -- we really do need somebody to keep an eye on us and to ensure that government is being conducted honestly, openly, and efficiently.

Andrew Mutch: You should check out the Ann Arbor Chronicle and their coverage of local meetings. That's a great model.

Steve Mace: What?!?! Regurgitated, repetitive, sensationalism isn't selling? What gives?!? Perhaps if the majority of editor's and "journalists" of our region had respected and utilized their medium for what it is truly for; and not abused it for so many years with tripe-they wouldn't have to be worrying about what they're going to now. Oh look!... Britney Spears is wearing black on a Wednesday opposed to her usual pink... front page. Economy, world and national news page 23, print it!

John Magee: I'm also in a pissy mood about the lack of news because I noticed today that the Detroit Free Press's DVD review column -- which up until a year ago used to include genuine local reviews by a genuine Detroit-based reviewer -- has now degenerated further from the generic wire reviews that replaced the reviewer into a reprint of synopses and ratings from

Don't get me wrong, I love Rotten Tomatoes as a review aggregator. But I hardly see why I need the Detroit Free Press to print it and deliver it to me. Of course, since the Tuesday edition of that paper (and the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday papers) bites the dust in three more weeks it's rather a moot point, I suppose.

Maybe I should thank them for preparing me for the future of news, an endless web repackaging of press releases and false rumors started in the blogosphere.

Steve Mace: ...and on top of all of that, you're fat!

John Magee: Ah, but am I really fat if there's no beat reporter left around to report on my ever-expanding girth?

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