Left, right, and center, it's hard to find anyone who admits to being a fan of the news media. On one of my favorite liberal blogs, Think Progress, the tagline they use is "brain-dead media." Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh uses the term "drive-by media." The phrase "mainstream media" was adopted derisively by the right years ago - it's now often abbreviated as MSM -- which is supposed to make you feel roughly as positive as other happy acronym epithets like STD or VPL or... A.I.G.!
Amidst the gleeful cross-partisan media-bashing there is the uncomfortable fact that big portions of the news media appear to be disappearing. We've learned this week, for example, that this might soon be the only available version of the Seattle Post Intelligencer.
The P.I.'s parent company, the Hearst Corporation, has made offers to the paper's staff to work on a Web-only version of the paper, with presumably smaller revenues, lower costs, and lower -and fewer- salaries. The Seattle P.I. would be the first big-city paper to go completely digital as a means of trying to save itself.
Others haven't survived. Denver's Rocky Mountain News died last week. After 150 years. Gone.
The newspapers still open for business are in big trouble. Since December, the Tribune Company, parent of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, has declared bankruptcy. So has the publisher of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Same goes for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The whole McClatchy chain of newspapers -greats like the Miami Herald and the Sacramento Bee - has reportedly laid-off a quarter of its workforce. The biggest paper in New Jersey, The Star-Ledger, paid buyouts to nearly half its editorial staff in October. Scores of newspaper veterans -reporters, photographers, editors - no longer working in news.
There's no reason why a free press can't be evident online instead of in print newspapers and magazines, but one thing a free-press needs is people actually ferreting out the news! Reporters and editors! On the payroll! Full-time, preferably! A democracy cannot thrive by blog alone! Can it?
I need a talking down.