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March 24, 2009


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Jack, the scariest thing I know is when facts and/or truths are subject to a myriad of filters, censors and various legal stipulations, concerns and "interpretations". There was a time when people knew the facts and the truth when they saw them. But now, most reporters are so cowardly - yes COWARDLY - that they engage in self-censorship and second-guessing all the time. Even when there is very good evidence and consensus that something is pretty clear (such as global warming), as long as there is anyone contesting the evidence, any conclusions are deemed to be STILL "controversial". Since when do we have to have 100% unanimity on an issue or, worse, "lawyer-proof" evidence for a journalist to be able to make a call on something and let the public know about it? I think if a journalist isn't willing to possibly, on occasion, go to court to defend their reporting, then they're probably not doing their job right and they should find another profession. In some cases they should also be willing to go to jail in order to provide the public with information they might not otherwise be able to get.

It is kind of ironic that you, being from Michigan, seem to fail to see the similarity between what is happening in the newspaper business and what has happened to the Detroit big three. Both businesses seem to have become very complacent, dependent on what they though were loyal customers and advertisers, and not very innovative or visionary. The car companies failed to see the future and prepare for it and failed to do the hard things. Newspapers, similarly, laid-off the very people that make a newspaper essential and vibrant - the investigative reporters! I suppose, in both cases, this can be blamed on incompetent and myopic management, but then I blame some of the engineers and journalists for not making a bigger stink about what was happening and not being organized enough to fight it. Everyone has been complacent - including the public!

Over the last decade we have had dozens of important incidents and stories that should have been made public and reported on long BEFORE they became obvious to EVERYONE. Isn't that what journalists are supposed to do - to give the public a heads-up as to what is going on in the world? Aren't they even sometimes supposed to investigate and report on "rumors" - even if they may not be absolutely sure if they are true or not? Isn't that what freedom of information is all about - that we should be provided with ALL the information we need to make our own judgments, without it being filtered, censored, or approved of, beforehand?

NO Jack - over the last decade I would give journalists a grade of 'D' in terms of uncovering the really important news of our time; Bernie Madoff before the collapse of his Ponzy scheme; Enron before its collapse; untold mortgage frauds; millions of sub-prime mortgages; medical price gouging and bankruptcy of the uninsured; corrupt contracting; war crimes; torture; non-existent WMD's; Abu Ghraib (before the photos); animal abuse in labs and farms (without uncover work by private citizens); police corruption and abuse (without private citizen videos); plagiarism; fabricated memoirs; John Edwards hypocrisy and narcissism; decades of steroid use by athletes (before they confessed), etc. No, what the newspapers cover today is, pretty much, pabulum and redundant information, because they all cover, pretty much, the same topics and stories, many of which are just copied from the wire services and some of which are first reported by private citizens (not PAID journalists). The rest of the stuff being peddled as "news" consists mostly of feature stories, crime reports, cooking recipes, sports scores/commentary, entertainment pieces, etc. Truly, original, investigative reporting (including undercover work) is sorely lacking in today's newspapers and THAT is partly why they are going under. Their content is no longer unique; their non-unique headlines no longer merit the old paperboy's "READ ALL ABOUT IT" cry, or the equally famous "All the news that's fit to print". You can get the same information from dozens of sources; you don't need to go to any particular paper anymore. If newspapers want more readers, they need to go back to giving their customers the kinds of hard-hitting (even legally dangerous - Ohhhh scary!) stories that can't be found anywhere else. They have to go back to being the fearless purveyors of the truth that they used to be, not the dime-a-dozen feature writers (or pundits) that they now have, seemingly, all become! On that note, the most courageous network reporter I have seen in recent years (since Dan Rather) is unquestionably Laura Logan of CBS News. She goes where most male reporters are afraid to go and isn't afraid to report on anything of interest to her. She also doesn't seem to be afraid of "no stinking lawyers". She is my "Laura Croft" of journalism - fearless and adventuresome - and in the best tradition of reporters of the past. I don't think I could point to many other journalist "heroes".

I look forward to a complete meltdown of the media ..

Thankfully we will not be assaulted anymore by the 3rd rate hacks like Jack..

I grant much of what "George" has to say, but he misses the point. Just because journalists have all too often failed in giving us the news we need as soon as we need it, that does not mean we still don't need newspapers and a lot of professional journalists to cover stories, especially local stories, in depth. We need to hold their feet to the fire, not just say "good riddance" to them. There are very few non-newspaper news sources on the net that deliver really original, hard-hitting, fact-based information, and it's an illusion that we're going to be well served by an army of dumb-ass bloggers.

Before coming to Ann Arbor, I lived in a Michigan community in which what passed for "newspapers" were a couple of weeklies that were useless in reporting solid local news. We were clueless most of the time about what was happening in our town. The Ann Arbor News, by contrast, does a pretty good job of reporting what city hall, the local business community and the people who run the schools are up to, and I have really appreciated that. I agree with Jack Lessenberry. Where is that crucial daily information going to come from when the News is history?

I forsee a public square website wherein public information and private sector information in the form of press releases, offical reports etc are deposited on the "bulletin board" of the public square werbsite...

Those readers who want more than the PSA information can then acess the blog sites for more crucial daily stories and information..

Fact is the majority of newspaper stories orgins are communications provided to the newspapers by public and private press related scources...

I refuse to accept this doomsday forecast from 2nd rate hacks like Jack and others whose body of work actually created to a degree this meltdown in the media industry..

The world will not end during prime time nor will the revolution need to be on TV..

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