Friday, June 10, 2011

Local News Suffers? Non-Shocking

Our good friends at the PRSA daily newsletter provide this link to Poynter speaking of the FCC's findings that local news is declining.

Ranks right up there with the shocking news that there is gambling at Rick's.

Why is this the case? Because the news industry is chasing it's profit tail too hard, is forced by shareholder demands to keep profits up, and the result is things perceived in the short run to be high cost and low -- or no -- return get cut.

More Lindsey Lohan, less Jim Lindsey and what's happening in local real estate or construction markets.

Ask yourself, good readers, why is this the top link today with the Public Relations Society of America? Because in the absence of local journalism, someone will fill the gap. Increasingly, it is branded journalism (and another past link on that subject and one on Churnalism and sports). As longtime readers know, I don't see that as a bad thing as long as the rules of engagement are strictly followed.

The people formerly known as the audience want information. They will find it where ever they can. When the people formerly known as the local journalists become upset at the "conflict of interest" or the desire to "be our own media" because institutions are more and more willing to cover themselves, let me gently remind them that we didn't ask to be our own beat reporters -- we are filling the hole left by local journalism's departure.

Close reading of the FCC's suggestions, however, should creep out anyone concerned about -- to use the report's own phrase -- the independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned -- by one of the report's suggestions: directing more government advertising money toward local news outlets and changing the tax code to favor a "non-profit" model for news organizations.

Isn't the top reason given for fear of branded journalism that it is bought and paid for propaganda on behalf of the organization doing the funding?

If transparency is the coin of this new on-line realm in which we live, I know who is providing my paycheck -- and so does everyone who reads my stuff -- when I blog actively for the Razorback athletic department. Will we know the same under the suggestions given by this report? And if the State is helping fund the Fourth Estate, will we get the "journalism we need" to use another popular phrase?

Not to mention how directing more government advertising money to local over national outlets syncs with that stubborn old Constitutional amendment that says "Congress shall make no law . . . ".

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