Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Newspapers Suck!

Bloomberg Business reported that newspapers, nationally suffered broad-based circulation losses, see:

Let's face it, newspaper retrenchment has not reached a bottom largely because NEWSPAPERS SUCK.  Don't get me wrong, I love reading the NYT, and occasionally I find Our Home Town Newspaper amusing and edifying as when our fashion columnist spent two columns of space describing her husband's desire to wear a bicycle cap a la Wesley Snipes in White Men Can's Jump..  At least at the Times there are genuinely talented journos, and amazing writers across disciplines and sciences.  As it relates to the law: Linda Greenhouse and Adam Liptak are brilliant.  The Times (and the Wall Street Journal are) exceptions to the rule.  Even at the local press, including ours, there are journalists and editors who are principled, talented and committed professionals.  Unfortunately, and for years, no decades, the bulk of the product passing as a newspaper in Our Home Town sucked.  It covered real news, barely, and while corruption in local and state government flourished, the newspaper, it's editors, and its journalists were clueless--no, worse than clueless,  Our Home Town Newless Paper, endorsed the very crooks and demagogues that today's scandals fuel their headlines.

In my opinion one of the real failures of the local press was their unwillingness and inability to appreciate and understand the complexities of criminal and civil law.  Oh sure they'd run a picture of Judge Italianname or Judge Irishname or Judge Menses-Insanity throwing the book at some poor shmuck without any explanation of jail-prison overcrowding, crooked law enforcement deals, bad policing, and horrible judicial work.  The failure of newspaper legal coverage is directly attributable to to not hiring lawyer-journalists to cover the law beats and the sheer laziness of the journalists and editors who were responsible for the coverage to invest in the job of telling the readership what they needed to know.   Why hire an experienced lawyer to tell you what the hell is going on in the Justice Palace when the sports writer will do just as well?

Look, let me say it again--there are many exceptions (in fact during the Catholic Child Sex Abuse Scandals there were at least four local journalists who took the time to invest in telling the history and providing the legal context to the underlying story, but)--to the general rule.  Too often important stories that directly effected the lives of the people are completely ignored by the journalists and editors too disengaged to tell important stories that make waves, that matter to you and me. The courts, the law, civil and criminal law relates to the THIRD BRANCH of government--the we-the-people branch of government and the local newspaper did not bother to cover what directly impacted you and me.  Frankly, court coverage is one of the most direct areas of interface for the community, you wouldn't know it by what passes as "news."

So if the newspaper doesn't cover what absolutely matters to you and me, if it isn't a resource for what counts in our lives, if it doesn't explain who, what, when, and why to us--why should we bother to buy the paper?  There's no mystery why their circulation numbers are in the toilet, the Newspapers sucked at what they did--surprise, surprise when something better came along, the readership was gone.

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