As local news outlets are gutted and shuttered, reporters laid off, publication schedules cut, and resources tightened across the country, Losing the News: The Decimation of Local News and the Search for Solutions sounds the alarm about the existential threat facing local watchdog journalism and proposes big-picture solutions for its revitalization.
This important report shows how news coverage of local issues in local newspapers is being lost: “Most Americans do not yet realize that their local news sources are on the brink of collapse and only a small minority pay for local news.”
“Local” is–obviously–where we live, and as we lose local watch-dog reporting and coverage of on-going issues, we are entering a paradoxical situation where we know more about what’s going in Washington, D. C., and other major cities than we do in the towns where we live.
Why does local journalism matter and what must we do to save it? If this subject resonates with you, click on the link above to see the report and its conclusions. As a former college journalism instructor, you have my gratitude if you read and share this report.
Washington, D. C., January 23, 2017, Star-Gazer News Service–Woke up this morning and worried about the fact that my waking up might be a lie. In a post-truth, alternate facts world, it’s easy to doubt oneself, because wrong is suddenly the new right.
My therapist asked me to talk to a sock puppet named Billy Joe.
“Tell Billy Joe how you feel about your lack of certainty,” my therapist prompted.
“I feel bad and that ain’t good,” I said.
“Don’t we all,” said Billy Joe.
“I don’t know who you are anymore,” I said, “much less who I am.”
“Well, I’ll tell you. Most people don’t know what happened on Choctaw Ridge,” said the puppet as he settled down on top of a copy of Carl Jung’s Red Book. “I went up there to talk to my guru, and he said, ‘Every lie is true somewhere and vice versa.'”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
My therapist was furiously taking notes, and by that I mean, writing quickly rather than with anger.
“It’s cutting edge quantum theory,” said Billy Joe. “Unfortunately, the world didn’t understand such things very well in 1967. Personally, the guru’s revelation led to that embarrassing Tallahatchie Bridge incident.”
“I’m sorry that happened,” my therapist said.
“Don’t fash yourself over it because I’m not really dead. Sure, that’s a lie in this universe, but not in the universe next door. As my guru explained, everything that can happen does happen. But the things that happen split off like a family tree into many universes with hundreds of worlds, worlds more numerous than the stars in a clear night sky over the rock of waters.”
“Does that mean alternative facts are true in another universe?”
“It does,” said Billy Joe. “Once a person learns how to listen to the spirit of the depths, he’ll understand that.”
“You’re still up at the sawmill in alt-reality?”
“Alive and kicking along with the cat in the box.”
“So, somewhere else, I’m still asleep,” I said.
“How do you feel about that?” asked my therapist.
“That’s why you pay Billy Joe and I $375 for a 38-minute hour,” she said.
She stood, tossed Billy Joe back in the sock puppet bin along with “Big Bopper,” “Buddy Holly” “Ritchie Valens,” and “Judge Crater.” When I walked outside, I saw morning had broken and realized for the first time since February 3, 1959 that the music never died and that even though the spirit of the times loves alternative facts and post truth, the truth will never die either.
As a journalist, my job is to remain neutral while writing a story, but I still think it will be fair for me to ask those whose facts don’t ring true, “What universe are you living in?”
Even though I haven’t read “Newsweek” in over ten years, I’m sad to see it go, just as I was also sad to see many of the other weekly and monthly print magazines I grew up with go out of business over the years. With the loss of these magazines, the public (and writers) lost a lot of outlets for short stories, features, commentary, viewpoint and the longer-form journalism that wouldn’t fit in the daily newspaper.
Founded in 1933, “Newsweek” seemed destined to trail behind “Time Magazine” in circulation. However, I found it more accessible than “Time” during the days before it began going down hill. As a subscriber, the first indication of coming hard times was the size of the magazine. It began getting thinner and thinner as pages were cut even though the subscription price increased.
I mourn the death of magazines because they presented in-depth stories most newspapers didn’t have the time or space to cover. Our Internet world is too full of hype, instant-experts, short-attention-span articles, articles filled with opinions and commentary, and all the other rush-to-judgement “facts” and “notions” the social media are famous for. Online “news,” to the extent that it can be called news, has lost most of the traditions of solid, professional reporting.
Blurring Facts and Opinions
Another reason I stopped reading “Newsweek” was due to its blurring of the lines between good journalism and bad journalism. Good reporters never tell you what they feel about a story, much less include ideas/views that aren’t attributed to a reputable source. True, news magazines did present analysis, but “Newsweek” often took that as license to write “news stories” in which the facts and opinions were mixed up into the kind of story I didn’t even expect my college journalism students to be writing once we got a ways into the semester.
I got so ticked off at “Newsweek” on one occasion, I tore out several of the major news stories and went through them with a red pen marking every opinion and every unattributed fact. I sent it to them with an “F” on top and asked which journalism schools the reporters flunked out of before they were hired by the magazine. I never heard back, of course. Now, what “Newsweek” did has become so prevalent that many news consumers don’t even realized they’re often reading the reporter’s notion about the news rather than the news. When I mentioned the lack of straight news in a Facebook status update recently, one friend said “I know what you mean. That’s why I always rely on XYZ,” whereupon she mentioned one of the most biased news personalities in the business.
So, I lament the loss of “Newsweek’s” print edition along with everything else that used to be considered standard, solid journalism before the “happy news” and it’s foul cousin, “My uninformed view is just as valid as the expert’s informed view” kind of reporting took over.
Now, if you want facts, you’ve got to look farther and farther to find them. Rest in peace, “Newsweek.”