Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More Bad News For Newspapers

Apparently the problems in the news industry is such that newspapers are forced to cut back on reporters accompanying the candidates around the country. This is real bad news for journalism, and the public at large, including bloggers.
Among the newspapers that have chosen not to dispatch reporters to cover the two leading Democratic candidates on a regular basis are USA Today, the nation’s largest paper, as well as The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Baltimore Sun, The Miami Herald and The Philadelphia Inquirer (at least until the Pennsylvania primary, on April 22, began to loom large).

Traveling campaign reporters say they try to do more than just regurgitate raw information or spoon-fed news of the day, which anyone who watches speeches on YouTube can do. The best of them track the evolution and growth (or lack thereof) of candidates; spot pandering and inconsistencies or dishonesty; and get a measure of the candidate that could be useful should he or she become president.

Deep and thoughtful reporting is also being produced by journalists off the trail. And some news organizations that can afford it are doing both. But the absence of some newspapers on the trail suggests not only that readers are being exposed to fewer perspectives drawn from shoe-leather reporting, but also that fewer reporters will arrive at the White House in January with the experience that editors have typically required to cover a president on Day 1.
If there are fewer reporters covering the candidates, that means that the importance of those remaining reporters increases because they will be relied upon by a greater number of media outlets. The biases and errors in reporting are less likely to be uncovered in a timely fashion because there are fewer accounts from which to discern such problems.

Newspapers that previously used their own reporters will now use wire reports. Fewer outlets reporting original news means less verification of news stories or unique angles on the news coming out of the campaigns.

And the problems extend to more than just the campaigns. Media outlets have been cutting back on the one area in which they have a clear and distinct advantage over bloggers/citizen journalists - the ability to conduct original reporting around the world. That means that the reliance on wire services increases that much more, and the bias and institutional problems at those wire services are simultaneously magnified because fewer outlets conducting their own original news gathering operations and obscured because there are fewer outlets that are able to provide concurrent news reports that might provide different information.

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