Wednesday, July 23, 2008

No news

Fair warning. This isn't about being more present, unless paying attention to the day's news counts. But sometimes the news, or more appropriately lack of it, gets ahold of my brain cells and won't let go.

What's triggered my brain cell hijack over the past few days is release of a study from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism about the current state of newspapers. No real surprises in its findings - newspapers report less space for news today, coverage of national and international news has declined at a majority of papers and business news has declined at a third. Features, opinion and coverage of science and the arts is reduced.

Some 85% of large papers have cut staff, with copy editors -- the people who catch and fix inaccuracies -- among the likeliest to be broomed. Photographers are becoming an endangered newspaper species as well. Papers are embracing the online versions of themselves but expecting smaller staffs to pick up the extra workload.

Various media have reported on this study, quoting assorted journalistic heavyweights expressing angst about the future of the newspaper and concern that the speed, depth and interactivity of the web exacts a toll in accuracy and journalistic standards. That with a couple of wars, dependence on foreign oil and a flagging economy, now is not the time to slash space devoted to national and international affairs.

I share that angst - I believe that some some attempt at objective fact-finding and reporting of issues that matter is fundamental for an informed citizenry to make decisions about who will lead our government, how our taxes are spent, what movies are worth seeing, stuff like that.

So with that as backdrop, I opened yesterday's local paper and found, in the precious shrinking news hole valiantly guarded by editors serving the public's right to know about issues affecting their lives, a full column devoted to --- the various women who had dated musician John Mayer.

About those journalistic standards....

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