Friday, February 20, 2009

Cities without newspapers and other predictions

The predictions are becoming more frequent. See a recent blog post by former newspaper reporter TJ Sullivan who picks up a story from a former high-ranking newspaper editor.

And more bad news keeps hitting the newspaper world in Southern California, and across the nation. My old paper, the Daily News, is barely recognizable. Pulitzer winning reporters and veterans continue to leave the LA Times. More job cuts are coming. The NY Times board eliminates dividends.

Which brings up the continuing question - where is this going? There are many predictions, so I'll try one. The investigative, in-depth journalism will rest with a few surviving papers, like the WSJ and NY Times, and with a few magazines like Newsweek. (Case in point: Newsweek did an outstanding piece of in-depth reporting last year about the shooting death of a gay student in Oxnard - right in the LA Times' backyard.)

However, for the most part, these in-depth pieces will be stories of a national or international concern. The frequency of true, in-depth local and regional reporting at other papers, including the LA Times, will be less.

What is unknown is how the public will really react when local coverage goes away or is substantially reduced. Will they notice the difference, the lack of perspective, the "bringing to your doorstep" news that you truly need to know? Will the public understand that the "breaking news" they received online one night or on the 11 p.m. local TV station report is really not"old news" by morning when the newspaper gives us more details, more depth and more perspective? Too many times have I heard someone say "Oh, I already saw that" when they pick up a discarded LA Times or NY Times at a Starbucks. They "saw" the story the day before online, but all the were looking at now was what appeared to be a "stale" headline in print. How can in-depth newspaper reporting be so easily discarded?

Unfortunately, filling the gap will be local TV stations, talk radio and folks like TMZ and Perez Hilton. Prurient, entertainment news for water cooler gossip rules the day. Do I really need to see amateur news gatherers filming "octomom" walking out of her van as she goes to the hospital to see her babies? Even the occasionally good in-depth reporting by some TV stations during sweeps is fading.

Meanwhile, news gathering sites, like and, will give us the "tidbits" we apparently need to convince us "we're in touch."

The shift continues. Where will it go?

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