I’ve been away from my blog for much too long. But for good reason. I’ve had a tremendous amount of work, which, for a freelancer, is a very good thing. Still, there have been developments that have caught my eye and mind that I’d like to share with you, because they've probably caught yours, too:
Peek-a-Boo Page One: The first two weeks in August, Star-Telegram home delivery customers were treated to an incredible eclipse of Page One news by advertising. For two weeks in a row, the 50% or us who subscribe for news content and don’t give a hoot about advertising were stunned to see almost all of Sunday’s Page One blanketed by what the other 50% are looking for -– ads.
I was surprised on Aug. 1 by the advertising obliteration of the Star-Telegram's Page One. The following Sunday, when the same thing happened, I despaired. On both Sundays, that wrap-around ad, known among some as a “spadea,” had the audacity to even blank out most of the paper’s name. (Credit where due: The Dallas Morning News ran much the same setup, but reduced the size of the spadea enough to run the first half of its name across the top of the ad, so on the newsstand, it looked like “The Dallas Morning News,” whereas the Star-Telegram’s proud and historic nameplate looked like “am” sticking out from behind that spadea and a stick-on ad.
Lord. Does anyone care??? Well, I do. I suspect you do, too. This sort of desecration of a proud news product is what we can expect to see more of unless and until the “newspaper” product jettisons its for-profit model. Can or will that happen? Yes, if we news-oriented people are willing to pay way more in the cost of a subscription. No, if we aren’t. A news product is an expensive thing to generate. Except for the hungry entry-level tykes who are abused with grotesquely low salaries, professional journalists are expensive. At least they used to be. Investigative journalism, which is so essential in our republic (just check out what has won the Pulitzer in, say, Community Service over the years), is way more expensive and so are the resources investigative journalists need to ply their craft such as massive databases, powerful computers, seminars in new tools and techiques, time, encouragement, etc.
That’s why we’re seeing less investigative work as this rotten economy takes its toll on the news industry.
Somehow, that’s got to be reversed. But where’s the money (because the bottom line in this as in Afghanistan, partisan politics, medical care, etc., is all about money)? Journalism foundations? Cookie sales? Sidewalk hawkers? Telethons? I'm skeptical. I have no idea where the news industry is headed other than down.
Can/would the public rally to the industry’s rescue, even if it doesn't have a clue about what constitutes journalism and why journalism is so vital?
Is it possible that the American public could save the news industry? Is it possible that generations that speak in texting acronyms and are basically clueless about the history of mankind, and even how many states there are in the U.S., could possibly care about journalism?
That’s a specter too awful to consider. It’s butt-ugly, like those Sunday Star-Telegram Page Ones in August.