Thursday, January 26, 2006

"the Midnight Ridder..."

We have it on good authority that Knight Ridder, a conglommerate of 32 daily newspapers, myriad Web sites and weekly publications, is up for sale. According to "Editor and Publisher,' the Society for Professional Journalists is concerned about whether exploitative, mercantile profit-driven interests will compromise "public service journalism."

Forgive me, but I think "public service journalism" and the dinosaurs currently occupy the same place in history. That said, as a paradigm, printing articles of substance written by reporters who are on-staff, and not outsourced from a competing paper is certainly something to strive for, but alas the unilateralism that has infected our foreign policy appears to have spread to our printing presses.

If nothing else, the lesson of media consolidation is that the "same old, same old" is now not only in syndication, but coming soon to the evening news near you. In this climate, one wonders how the free flow of information, as well as diversity of perspective, will be affected, but then that is a structural flaw with any monopoly. The first step is recognizing the corporate takeover of the press, in America, as well as the government, and then figuring out how to factor dialogue, and dissent into the equation.

It is heartening that an otherwise arcane, and arguably esoteric, group, the "Society for Professional Journalists," is calling for "an urgent national conversation" about the impact this prospective sale will have not merely on those who report the news, but on those who read, and/or view recycled reports from Bosnia, and the Middle East. Hats off to the SPJ! But why aren't the editors of every newspaper under Ridder's umbrella meeting to discuss the possible impact of the sale; instead, they're busy meeting with the president about "shameful" leaking of the NSA story. Can it be that newspaper management has been coopted by fear of losing out on their profit-sharing plans if they so much as squeak? We have only to look at the recent changes at PBS, and their parent company, to know that some serious changes may be on the horizon for our nation's newspapers, and their consumers.

If only the media watchdogs were as wide awake, and human interest stories weren't allowed to overshadow news coverage. on CNN, during peak viewing hours. Don't get me wrong, I like to watch Anderson Cooper every bit as much as the next guy, he's cute, but I don't like having to learn about "federal halfway houses" from reading subtitles!

In a country where recycling the news has proven even more profitable than recycling diet pepsi cans, we all have to sit up, and take notice, when a company that controls 25 daily papers is up for sale. The question for today is: what in the hell can we do about it?