News ain’t free and other bits of wisdom
With a nod to Andy Heller, how ’bout some quick-hit analyses of the media news of the day?
∫ Bloomberg News says it won’t investigate its founder, Michael Bloomberg, as he spends his way through the Democratic primaries. It won’t investigate his Democratic rivals. But it will investigate President Donald Trump.
Democrats cannot criticize Trump for enriching himself off the presidency by not separating himself from his business empire and then run a candidate whose business empire vows to protect Democrats with journalistic kid gloves.
To be fair, Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait told his staff they will cover the day-to-day of the presidential contest and will run other outlets’ investigatory findings when appropriate. But Bloomberg won’t dedicate its own investigative resources.
I have long said that, if news outlets are to demand transparency, they must show transparency. Other news outlets do. The Washington Post, now owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, nonetheless routinely covers poor working conditions in Amazon facilities.
That is how you lead by example.
∫ Stockholders recently made official the $1.2 billion takeover of my alma mater, Gannett, by GateHouse Media. The new executives immediately announced plans to find $300 million in annual savings through “efficiencies,” which my long history of working in corporate media tells me means layoffs, layoffs, and more layoffs.
My experience also tells me the company’s talk about pushing digital is corporate-speak for chasing clickbait. Gannett was inching in that direction when I left, but at least Gannett was simultaneously developing a reputation for investing in investigative journalism, rolling out multiple watchdog projects that involved all of Gannett’s more than 100 newsrooms.
GateHouse has a reputation for investing in nothing, just cutting and bleeding as long as they can.
I’ve reached out to my old Gannetteer pals. They’re all nervous about either losing their jobs or, as one told me, “not being able to do the work I came here to do.”
God be with my dear Battle Creek Enquirer and all of my friends.
∫ Though the closest Gannett-owned paper to Alpena is in Livingston, you should care about this, too. Research out earlier this year from Nieman Lab (https://tinyurl.com/rossvtf) shows newspaper closures increase partisanship, which we all know is strangling our nation and driving deep wedges into communities from coast to coast.
Voters in cities that lose their daily paper are 1.9% more likely to vote for the same party when choosing a president and U.S. senator, the Nieman researchers found. That may seem like a statistical blip, but many congressional contests are decided by a smaller margin.
The researchers concluded that voters without a local paper turn instead to the more partisan voices quoted in national outlets, inspiring more partisan votes.
“If Americans can tear themselves away from the spectacle in Washington and support local news with their dollars and attention,” the researchers wrote, “it could help to push back against the partisan polarization that has taken over American politics today.”
∫ The Gannett-GateHouse nightmare also reminds me to remind you that news ain’t free.
Survey after survey shows Americans get most of their news through social media (especially Facebook), where readers can gobble up information (or, as my experience again tells me, the headline above actual information) from across the globe without paying for a subscription.
But Facebook doesn’t generate news. Somewhere up the chain, whatever article you read on social media began with a journalist sitting in some boring government committee meeting or coughing outside the scene of a house fire or risking life and limb in a war zone so you don’t have to.
This week, while you saved $19.75 a month and thumbed through your feed for fodder for the annual Thanksgiving table political debate or researched the latest news on the Lions or read up on some distant humanitarian crisis to which you can tithe for Christmas, the journalists who generated those stories also bought turkeys and stuffing for their families, gassed up their car for holiday road trips, and went Black Friday hunting so their kids could open their dreams on Christmas morning. When you try to read for free, you take food from their kids’ mouths.
Nieman Lab again proves the point: Their researchers found that, though local newspapers accounted for just 25% of the available media outlets in the communities they sampled, those same papers accounted for 50% of the original reporting and 60% of the local news stories offered to residents in those communities (https://tinyurl.com/yyg3efum).
So, if you want to keep reading information about your community, if you want to be informed about the goings-on of the governments to which you send your tax dollars, support your local paper, and your local journalists.
Subscribe. Take out an ad. Post a classified. Tell your neighbors to do the same.
Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-358-5686 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.