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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Is there a reporter in the house?

I have seen the future of news and it's not pretty.

Not that things were really terrific with the Incredibly Shrinking Globe and the tabloid trio of the Herald, Metro and Boston EveryNow and Then. Or television news fiercely devoted to the "if it bleed it leads" concept.

But let's get serious here. This week's decision to ax 30 people at WBZ-TV -- including Bob Lobel, Joyce Kulhawick and Scott Wahle -- coming amid the latest round of Globe buyouts that saw them lose Steve Bailey, Helen Donovan and Mike Larkin -- is bad news for anyone who wants and needs solid information.

Not that I would expect any major breaking pieces from anyone on that list except Bailey. For Channel 4 though, the losses include an investigative producer and senior newsroom people, also known as news pros and institutional memory.

Theses cuts are simply the latest moves that have also afflicted WCVB-TV, WHDH-TV and left the Herald -- long dependent on newsstand sales and appealing to a working-class readership -- as a web-driven news vehicle.

Obviously the future of news is on the Internet and the news business, particularly print, is struggling to find a way to make some money while gravitating away from the ink on dead trees model. (Television news has always been a different animal, a headline service that uses newspapers as its assignment desk).

Newsmakers have been quick to pick up on the change and today's Globe offers the most obvious proof -- reporting on Doug Rubin's decision to use Blue Mass Group as a forum to mend fences with Deval Patrick's political base.

Ladies and gentlemen, step right up and watch the tail wag the dog.

Nothing against bloggers (one of my best friends in the mirror is one). But as we discussed long ago, while journalists can be bloggers, bloggers are not necessarily journalists. Neither are radio and TV yak show hosts. Look no further than the one being hosted by a convicted felon who used to run the state. (By the way Mr. Speaker, it might be time to take down this web site).

The rise of alternative media is a good thing, but as the line goes, it's like drinking from a fire hose. You need filters, gatekeepers. Journalists are trained to do that. That training leads to attack about bias, but the reality is the bias can be found in every alternative to the mainstream media (this blog included).

And when the filters are removed, you have political operatives going straight to the base to make their case. Not that they haven't always done that, but the new media makes it far easier.

Rubin deserves credit for going to a forum where he knew he would get pushback rather than simply posting in the Patrick web site.

But it's never good when the gatekeepers are the last one on the scene -- long after the news has been noted and dissected on blogs around the area.

I never thought that when I left the news business about 20 years ago because my organization was bleeding cash that I was going to be a trend setter.

UPDATE: As if on cue, WBZ-AM goes with the Globe's Rubin-BMG story as their second itema at the top of the 6 a.m. hour -- attributing it to the Globe! Doesn't WBZ have a political reporter with a blog who might have read the post when it went up almost 36 hours earlier -- and done his own story?

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Anonymous Charley on the MTA said...

Hey OL -- I'm not sure I understand your point all that well. Should the Globe *not* cover the Rubin post? Should Rubin not be directly in contact with the BMG community without consulting the press first?

In any event, if this is a MSM-vs.-blogs frame, then I'm not on board. We need the pros, badly. And we need them to do a good job. Hey, maybe they need us, too.

BTW, I'm not holding my breath for Keller to link to us ... :)

April 02, 2008 12:56 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Not at all Charley, only that they were very late to the dance, given the fact that Rubin posted late Monday.

To banner that story across the top of Metro front felt like very old news, to me at least, since I had blogged about it the day before (and in which I credited Rubin for reaching out directly to Deval's unhappy base.)

Now I'll grant you it was too late to make Tuesday's paper (no doubt by Rubin's design, which probably included the hope for just this story on Wednesday.)

But the Globe does have a Political Intelligence column, one that accepts comments -- a blog if you will. Why not post something there and follow-up with a fuller piece today? It would not have seemed as stale to me -- and would have been news to the 99-plus percent of their readers who never saw his BMG post in the first place.

I think the Globe is experimenting with all these weird page one stories like mausoleums and co-ed dorm rooms to capture new, younger readers.

They should couple that strategy with actually using their blogs to draw these readers in with fresh news, then use the dead tree edition to offer some analysis and context.

Just my 75 cents to the folks on Morrissey Boulevard. I certainly need the Globe and Herald to do my thing and this story actually shows they are trying to cover the blogosphere. They just need to be a bit peppier.

And I definitely didn't want to re-open that MSM-blog thing, so thanks for not doing it either :-)

April 02, 2008 6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is WBUR our only true news outlet any more? And can we even call them that if they hire Barnicle?

Seriously, they really are the only place for in depth reporting. They don't break as much news, though, because they're not as rabid for ratings as the for-profit media. (Don't doubt their interest in ratings, though. I've heard they're #2 or #3 behind WBZ and WEEI. Can anyone confirm?)

April 02, 2008 10:27 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Can't confirm that but you are right abut the quality of the newscasts -- unless or until the Serial Plagiarizer comes aboard.

April 03, 2008 7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the post ML and as someone who spent 18 years in the news business, I'll add two thoughts:
1. I'm stating the obvious, but local television news ran up the white flag a while ago. Where do they put their resources? Weather reports, fires and car crashes. They don't do any reporting.

2. From a historical perspective the obliteration of newspapers is going to mean that sometime in the future people will try to figure out what happened on a particular day in a year, but the news really will not have been preserved in a collective way as we find in the paper each day. We can hope that whatever news organizations are left will archive "editions" in some manner - whatever those editions will look like. But we won't be holding history the way we do today.

April 04, 2008 4:50 PM  

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