Saturday, January 5, 2008

The News?

I'm sorry folks... I had another posting that I was working on this week with the intention of putting up today, and while it may not have been the best thing that I have ever written, it wasn't all bad. 

Unfortunately, before I could make that normal weekend effort, I picked up the Saturday Toledo Blade. Now the Blade is one of my customers, and I have even done some work with their sister paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette over the years. I have found the people of both organizations to be of sound mind and good character. I would also say that they are easy to do business with for the most part. I would even say that I have people that I consider friends at both sites. I am therefore concerned about their future, and my own in servicing this industry, when I see what I did in the paper today.  

One quarter of the front page (And this is a pretty highly prized position in a newspaper for those of you who don't know, even below the fold. Just ask any writer at a newspaper.) is taken up with how well OSU Merchandise is selling. Are you kidding me?  

Now don't get me wrong, I don't object to the story itself. I'm sure that there is some local interest in such things. I do object however to it's placement on the front page. This is a time in our city when projects like the Erie Street Market, Southwyck Mall, and the MLK bridge are draining money from city coffers that does not appear to be there ... yet no one at the Blade seems to be looking for where it's coming from and how and why it's going to these projects. 

This is a time when City Council seems to be playing a really petty version of musical chairs with the council presidency in what appears on the surface to be a potential violation of the city charter and maybe even state sunshine laws, and no one is asking why. This is a time in Toledo and NW Ohio when jobs are leaving the area faster than Miami Dolphins fans in the 4th quarter of another losing football effort, and no one is asking our local leaders how they can call themselves "business friendly" while it happens.  

Hell they announced yesterday that Toyota had at least passed Ford in making cars in the US (and it's highly likely that they have passed GM as well), let alone the efforts of Chrysler / Jeep in the local area, and no one is asking them what they are doing to stem the tide. Perhaps this is why newspapers are beginning to become irrelevant in our current society. They were always better than TV or radio in being able to take the time to ask the tough questions and explore the answers in depth, without worrying about commercial breaks every six minutes. 

Newspapers had the staffs and the incentive to hunt out the good stories, the political villains, and the local heroes and bring them to us in as much detail as we cared to read. Now they have sunk to being concerned about why OSU gear isn't selling this year as well as it did last year. (For those of you who are actually interested in this subject, and shame on you, I suspect that it is because people don't have as much disposable income this year as last. I know that I don't.) The reduction in stature would be laughable if it weren't so pitiful. I won't go into the ills of corporate ownership and a generation that doesn't read anything ... been there, done that, threw away the T-shirt. I will merely say that the path being taken here may become a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom.  

Newspapers don't get all of the blame here either. We have become a society more concerned about Brittany Spears kids than she is, more concerned about Lindsay Lohan's and Paris Hilton's drinking than they are, and more concerned about how many houses that Brad Pitt is going to build in New Orleans than why the locals seem unwilling or unable to do so. We have become a "society of celebrity" (and yes, you can quote me on that), where everyone needs increasingly more than their 15 minutes of fame because fame is all we seem to care about. I won't get off task by discussing this particularly nasty aspect of today's society, but I will suggest that we have traditionally expected the newspapers of the world to rise above such nonsense, not pander to it. There is plenty of Tabloid journalism to fill any need that we might have. They don't need your help.

So in the end, my message here is to newspapers in general, and the Block family and Blade in particular is this. We need you out there. You can do things for us that we can't do for ourselves. When you feel the need to write stories as this, do what needs to be done and bury them in subsequent pages or sections where they belong. Give us the "journalism" that is supposed to be your mission on your front pages, and not the "crap of the moment". You can be a force for good in our cities and in our lives. Please don't make yourself as mindless, meaningless, and useless as this story suggests. 
In the spirit of full disclosure (which seems to be so important these days) I must say that any attempt in this posting to save the industry and career of the writer is purely intentional.



Hooda Thunkit said...


IMNHO, this is the Blade's feeble way of going along in order to get along in order to perhaps stem the gushing flow of red ink that they (and, most other print media) are experiencing.

Anything to hang onto its feeble readership numbers...

That's also why the Block family has diversified into other business ventures such as the local cable franchise.

Can't blame them for keeping alive.

Can blame them for their former stranglehold on undue influence of Toledo politics. . .

Tim Higgins said...

As one who came along in the newspaper industry soon after the creation of movable type (check with historymike for questions on this), I remember the day when newspapers automatically took an adversarial position to every local government in order to explore divergent opinions in the hope of seeking the truth. It appears that those days, like that of the dinosaurs, are over.