A friend looked a little shocked the other day when I told him I didn’t read the local newspaper and never watched the local news. He asked how I managed to stay informed. I replied that the best way to become uninformed was to rely on local media. Local news has shrunk to covering crimes, fires or accidents. If it bleeds it leads.
Journalism has always been a hybrid creature. It’s a business, of course. But as the 4th Estate, it is also a quasi partner with government and granted privileges beyond most commercial enterprises. Cheap access to our air waves is one of its privilege and its right to free speech under the First Amendment is another — that right always more broadly interpreted than commercial speech.
When local papers were owned locally, their proprietors had a vested interest in the community. Once the press and other forms of media were gobbled up by corporate giants, community affairs was considered quaint and boring. Investigative reporting shrank with the increase of the bottom line. Sadly, when news is viewed solely as a commercial enterprise, democracy suffers.
A small study reported in The New York Times makes my point. According to a Pew Research study, the amount of time local newscasts produce stories about government has fallen from 7 percent in 2006 to 3 percent last year. Reporting staffs have been shrunk by 40 percent with the result that the local news focuses on weather, sports and traffic. (“News” The Week, March 29, 2013 pg. 18) Anyone starved for information had better look elsewhere than the local media for sustenance. Otherwise, he or she will be bloated by a news diet equivalent to the nutritional value of Twinkies.
(Courtesy of news.gather.com)