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Tue, Dec 19 2006

Forget the threat of McCarthyism. Newspaper industry's biggest hurdle may be its outdated self-image

I've been so busy with the season's activities that I missed, until now, all the activity going on with media in the Santa Barbara area. The Santa Barbara News-Press has apparently been going through a lot of changes and there have been lawsuits and responses to the lawsuits, plus a few response lawsuits to the responses. Forgive me. I know that sounds a bit convoluted. Perhaps Matt Kettmann's opinion piece (and responses) from The Santa Barbara Independent can begin to explain it better than I can. The Los Angeles Times has also reported on some of the controversy and so have other major news outlets.

I do wonder if some of this might backfire on the Santa Barbara News-Press management. As these types of stories begin to spread there are always strong reactions. And the world of journalism isn't quite the same now as it was when management was often made up of wealthy families that kept newspapers going for several of their own generations. Many papers now are run as corporate structures with much of the same expectations and complications that mimic other big business, particularly as more papers are acquired by large media. Readers don't just read the news and take it at face value so much anymore. Now they want the stories behind the story and they want the stories behind those who publish the story. Corporate scandals in other industries have caused the public to question anything that might come across as heavy-handed management, because that kind of attitude may be reflecting problems that readers fear will limit their access to a fair report of general news happenings. The curiosity of readers concerning publishing tycoons' as celebrities in their own right has given way to a demand for accountability from news management.

The comments are starting to come. For instance, one post at I'm Not One to Blog, But...includes comments on management demanding loyalty and one response refers to historical similarities—at least similarities that particular responder sees. (That is only one reference and may not necessarily reflect all views.)

We're moving into new waters for journalists, news management, unions, new middle-managment, readers and everyone else. The public just wants news workers to get on with it and present the news in a fair manner. But the more bitterness there is on the part of news workers and the more distracted they are with lawsuits and internal turmoil, the tougher it will be to get the news out in both a timely, and unbiased, manner. All the infighting, lawsuits and calls for loyalty create a danger of putting traditional news outlets behind, while new kinds of journalism such as blogging and podcasts are speedily filling in the gaps without having to worry about being held back by newsroom politics.

posted at: 06:50 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
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