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January 22, 2008


Patti Abbott

THE WIRE is concentrating on that issue this season and it is so disheartening and the negative ramifications are impossible to overemphasize. I wonder if we will eventually have a few national newspapers with regional bureaus for a local insert. Our Detroit Free Press is a pale reminder of its former self, discarding coverage of various events and news on a daily basis.

Karen Olson

I left the newspaper business almost two years ago. It's incredibly sad to see the decline of newspapers all over the country: layoffs, buyouts, barely able to cover stories because of the lack of reporters and resources, the mentality of the corporations that own the papers. Newspapers can't figure out how to make money off the Internet and are losing revenue from classifieds because of craigslist, which is hurting. That said, newspapers are still making money but just not enough for the higher-ups. The Wire's depiction is accurate for papers like the Sun or the Hartford Courant or the Philadelphia Inquirer, although at the smaller dailies across the country, it's worse than what the program is portraying.

PJ Parrish

I worked for the same "Chicago guys" as David did for more than 25 years at one of the company's cash-cow Florida newspapers. It, too, has become a pale imitation of itself which angers and saddens me. World and national news? Dream on. Significant local news? Fading fast. Great writing and idiosyncratic columnists? Long replaced by centralized coverage by the mother ship. Even the once sacred cow sports sections are starting to look pallid.

The Miami Herald recently tried to outsource its copyediting to India. ("Ah is that Miami Shores or Miami Lakes? Who cares, just guess.") That experiment was cancelled but I wonder for how long?

Soon everyone will be a candidate for Leno's Jaywalking bit but it won't be funny anymore.


If you posit that this is due to television newscoverage (they do have more and better pictures), then the fate of books has long since gone the same way. We write for a shrinking, mostly elderly demographic.
Any solutions?

Elaine Flinn

Ingrid asks for solutions - wish I had one. However, with a recession looming, it's gonna get worse.

Karen Olson

I don't think this has to do with TV coverage at all, which is a whole 'nother issue. It's shrinking news holes, young reporters with less experience are hired to replace those more experienced with institutional memory, it's bad writing and inaccuracies that are not caught by copy desks trying to do more with less. I could go on and on. Solution? Beats me. It may be past the point of no return. Of course even five years ago perhaps something could be done, but now?

I got into the newspaper business in the early 1980s because of Woodward and Bernstein. But that was very shortlived. Now a paper wouldn't even consider that story, wanting the "big story" that could win a Pulitzer.

Sort of like publishers not wanting to grow authors and wanting that DaVinci Code flash in the pan every time.

Clea Simon

David Carr had a similar piece in the NYT this weekend, pointing out that the dumbing down is in part due to competition from new information sources (the web, etc.). He sees it as a dumbing down to compete, but it's really all the same problem - corporate owners chasing profits. When I worked in magazines, back in the day, we used to say that two formulas worked: Either create a magazine and trust that your readership will find you, or locate a readership and figure out what it wants. You can't keep switching, though -you can't remake a newspaper to be hip and web-like. Just doesn't work.

(That said, as a former daily journo am loving this season.)

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David J. Montgomery is a writer and critic specializing in books and publishing. He is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has also written for USA Today, the Washington Post, and other fine publications. A former professor of History, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.

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