Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Recession Ends -- or Maybe Not

As America leads the way into the economic dumper, a host of whiners continue to cry out into the night, bemoaning the fact that things just aren't what they used to be. No, things definitely are not what they used to be -- and for good reason. Old white men, as we have seen, no longer enjoy a stranglehold on positions of status and leadership. The game's open to just about everyone now and while that may upset traditionalists, those same traditionalists just have to accept that if old, white men were still capable of genuine leadership, the 44th president of the United States would be John McCain.

In much the same vein, I hear lots of folks complaining about the demise of the newspaper as a media source of information. "The internet has taken over!" they wail, as publications like The Los Angeles Times continue to wither away on newsstands. Once great and proud, the Times barely resembles its former self. Thin, gaunt, with fewer pages and even fewer real news stories, the Times increasingly reminds one of a sickly patient who refuses to eat regardless of how much food is placed in front of him.

The Los Angeles Times, and papers like it, are in fact dying. And for good reason: It's not the internet at all. They simply suck at delivering the news.

The stewards of the Times, much like the drunken captain of the Exxon Valdiz have been so depressed, so unfocused and so reckless in their management of the Times that they've actually forgotten what a newspaper is supposed to do: Deliver independent perspective and impartial reporting of news events. Instead, like so many other devolved institutions, the Times no longer reports as much as it regurgitates information.

And most of its expectorant isn't news at all, as evidenced by the headline dated December 2, 2008:

"Recession Could Last Until 2010." How's that for a non-news story? Look closely and you'll find absolutely nothing factual -- or even close to factual -- in that headline. The recession could last until 2010? Okay, does that mean the recession might not last until 2010? Or that it could end next Tuesday, say about two thirty-ish?

I supposed I could accept this kind of inanity if it were produced by sixth grade elementary students, except for the fact that even sixth grade elementary students have the same resources from which they draw their news as does the Times: the internet. The Times has lost focus on its own brand; what it once was and no longer can sustain. It's a classic example of Caretaker Management Syndrome, where the descendants of the founder know only his fortune without ever knowing how he created it.

That's the reason why newspapers across the land are failing, by the way. It's a branding thing. We all still expect the curmudgeonly, sardonic, skeptical newspaperman to tilt his hat back on his head and clack out his scoop with a cigarette dangling from his lip. We want to believe he's out there, fighting for the common man, driven to expose the truth to a freedom-loving society.

Well, that was then. This is now. And these days, all you get for your home delivery is rehashed, groundless speculations that serve no purpose other than to sensationalize rumors and panic the public. And even then, they never do their own digging or support their stories with hard, cold facts. Everything is hedged, either for fear of attracting a too-hungry lawyer or in-house accountant.

No wonder so many people have stopped subscribing. If they can get the same garbage over cable television or the internet, they can get it all for free, in vibrant living color -- and if they're really lucky, from a really stacked blonde in a tight angora sweater.


Blogger Meg said...

I'm a news junkie, I just don't see any reason to buy a newspaper when I'm on the internet 24/7. The exception would be if I was taking the bus around town, and there is a good local campus paper for that.

However, the city paper is too unwieldy to read in a bus. Really, I have never understood why newspapers had to be folded so that you have to spread them out on a table just to read them and hunt between sections to read the rest of a story. It's one of the most annoying reading experiences -- right up there with fighting to keep my cats off my book as I read.

Fortunately, our city news does have an RSS feed, though it needs a little help. I find more useful local news on the local Live Journal community.

3:18 PM  

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