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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Perhaps one of the reasons why readers haven't expressed concern about the decline in local journalism is that they can't possibly know what's not being covered.

I do believe that the school board meets routinely, as do any number of local committees and commissions from the state of Wisconsin through the counties down to local units of government. Once in a while a story is big enough to attract a reporter's attention and break through the fog. But in my experience as a freelance writer, most good stories are ferreted out by inquisitive people asking questions and challenging the answers, and reporters with the time and inclination to pursue them over a period of weeks and months. Fewer reporters equals less time. Freelance writers can do only so much.

It might be interesting to publish a list of important stories not being covered. Give me two weeks, and I could make such a list. I would get on the telephone with members of local organizations, public and private, and start to inquire.

Additionally, Nichols's comment in Madison last night about four PR people for every reporter struck hard. Even government is tending in this direction.

Katherine Esposito

Madison, WI

Jan 29 2010 - 9:10am

Web Letter

1. For media to serve the public interest, they need to be controlled, which ultimately means funded, by the public.

2. Intermediaries such as advertisers, corporations, government agencies or quasi-public corporations like CPB end up influencing media organizations more than the public who funds them.

3. Pure public funding--subscription-funded journalism, for example--doesn't seem to be able to support even current newsrooms

4. I don't trust politicians and the government to decide which journalists get subsidized and which do not, nor to create a set of rules (which would almost certainly run afoul of the First Amendment).

The media postal subsidy ingeniously navigated this thicket. Maybe something else can too.

Paul Bame

Fort Collins, CO

Jan 15 2010 - 1:05am

Web Letter

Do-nothing Republican-controlled White House and Congress were replaced by cloned do-nothing Democratic-controlled White House and Congress.

No-clue American media are already starting another round of raising false hope that the next administration or Congress would bring real change to our country.

Without structural changes of our political system, without outlawing the Supreme Court ruling that corporations are equal to citizens in their rights (aren’t corporations supposed to serve the citizens, not other way around!?), without cleaning our electoral system of corruptive addiction to the campaign contributions (for democracy to work, it’s enough for the people to vote for those who represent their interest; if media-created perception matters, the real position of the candidates is completely irrelevant), without exiling the lobbyists from Washington, DC, nobody should be hopeful.

Why would anybody expect that corporate-controlled US media would dare to bite a hand that holds a leash? It was easy to sell out the independent media to corporate America. It will be extremely hard to buy it back. As bad as they are, in such condition they are still priceless to the special interests.

It means that we will elect another class of the politicians with initial high approval ratings, only to send them back home with the single-digit scores on their final exams.

After writing this, I have realized that we shouldn’t be hopeful about getting real change, at least I don’t see a way to implement it without some tectonic events, like a really bad economic crisis.

The problem is that I don’t want a bad crisis, but it seems all the roads lead to Rome.

Kenan Porobic

Charlotte, NC

Jan 13 2010 - 5:42pm

Web Letter

I don't know of any big-city dailies that have attempted to gain a paying online NPR-type audience with a local online NPR-type product.

What they give away on the Internet is a bunch of junk.

But I wouldn't mind paying a subscription fee for quality local news.

David Smith

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Jan 13 2010 - 3:24pm

Web Letter

The suggestion that subsidizing newspapers will save serious journalism assumes that the declining circulation, and declining number of newspapers, is a direct result of increasing costs and the profit motives of corporate owners. Subsidizing the New York Times, Boston Globe or any other threatened paper is not likely to have any significant effect. Would the LA Times sell any more papers if the copy price were halved? The decline in newspaper circulation reflects the consumers' unfortunate demand for an entertaining and superficial news-like product. Is it likely that the popularity of the screaming heads like Limbaugh, Olberman and their colleagues will be affected one way or the other because of the continued existence of the county's leading newspapers? Whether we like it or not, journalism is as likely to be cheapened in the digital age as any other media. Those of us with discriminating tastes will always have some sources of serious reporting and opinion provided by the Internet.

Local newspapers deal with issues and events having immediate and serious consequences in their communities. Appearances to the contrary, there are some limits to federal financial resources. How would they accommodate the needs of the Pleasant Valley Weekly and the Cleveland Plain Dealer?

David C. Hipp

New Philadelphia, OH

Jan 8 2010 - 5:06pm

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