Monday, August 29, 2011

Readers, communities lose big when media execs shutter newsrooms

Northern California has a "news emergency," according to digital news observer and author Ken Doctor (Newsonomics) and radio listeners phoning in about the Bay Area News Group combining 10 of its 15 titles into two new ones: the Times and the East Bay Tribune.

The 137-year-old Oakland Tribune was one of the papers closed.

The business decision may result in gains in savings, but it'll also mean reader loss, Doctor says.

"It's a community loss and points to the wider impact of news cuts on the society in which we live," he writes, recalling a caller bemoaning fewer reporters.

"'The news is our last great hope for justice'," Doctor quotes a woman who advocates for the elderly and hasn't been able to get help from local government. "'We've been working with a reporter... and to see the newspapers get cut back is really hard'."

The corporate decision-makers are being short-sighted, Doctor says.

"Newspapers are all about community identity; they have both reflected it and provided rallying symbols for it," he says. "How many corruptions, large and small, [will be] unfound? We don't know what we don't know.

"How much of the reporting that does see the light of day will be 'local'?" he continues. "What's local to one reader [of the new regional papers] won't really be local to another."

Nevertheless, it's up to the reporters, photographers and editors to persevere --- and hopefully prosper individually in their careers.

"It's important for all the journalists to do what jouralists need to do: Forget the uncertain usiness around them and report the news as best they can," Doctor says.