Saturday, September 1, 2012

Why Serious Blogging Now Rules Over Newspapers

For some eight to ten months now I’ve noticed a serious decline in The Denver Post, to which I subscribe. By decline I mean that a once trustworthy paper that featured thought provoking and insightful viewpoints, had been overrun by disinformation, right wing PR and propaganda editorializing. In other words, it was becoming ever more like the local right wing rag. More nutso conservative columnists were taking up space, even as more right-slanted letters appeared, many off the wall. When columnists Mike Littwin and Penny Parker were fired, the warning lights really came on. Littwin for his part, was one of the sanest, most rational voices around, and always encouraged readers to think deeply – especially when covering political issues.

This profile carried over from when Littwin was a columnist for the Baltimore Sun. Among all Sun columnists, his word craft stood out for its clarity, honesty and depth. When he left the Sun to move to Colorado – to work for the Rocky Mountain News- a real gap was left on the Sun’s op ed pages. But when we moved to Colorado, in 2000, wifey and I found him again and were delighted. When the ‘Rocky’ folded this past year and Mike then went to work for the Denver Post, we felt we (and he) were lucky, but mostly we the readers.

Then the Post ditched him.

Or maybe it was the new “Citizen Kane” of Colorado, Dean Singleton, at least according to a new expose article in Harpers by David Sirota. Sirota makes particular reference to former Post columnist Susan Greene. When Susan resigned from the paper in 2010, she wrote a cathartic piece for the Huffington Post which opened the eyes for many of us, on why the Post was heading downward. In her words:

In my own experience, staying true to the Denver Post brand required a certain type of Stockholm syndrome. It meant internalizing what you figure your boss and your boss's boss might deem inconvenient to print, say, before they hop on the train to Frontier Days with a posse of politicians and advertisers.

Their directives were loud and clear. No mas with the undocumented immigrants, one editor told me. Enough already about police brutality and mental illness, winced another. Ixnay the grit, they warned. And for God's sake, they said, give it a rest about the baby Jesus on the steps of City Hall."

According to “The Only Game In Town,” David Sirota recounted instances when Singleton:

- Ignored or killed stories critical of candidates he supported

- Concealed evidence that would hurt his friends and allies

- Strong-armed endorsements from his editorial boards

- Ran competitors out of business and then gutted staff.

As for Sirota, in his piece he notes this tragedy – of a hotshot rich guy buying out newspapers and pandering to politicos- isn’t peculiar to the Post. Nope, it’s a national infestation and plague.
As he writes:

According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the share of cities with a competing newspaper went from 60 percent in 1910 to just 2 percent in 1971, and that 2 percent has since dwindled even more, leaving most media markets with a single newspaper. Not surprisingly, a Federal Communications Commission report noted last year that American journalism has experienced “a shift in the balance of power—away from citizens, toward powerful institutions,” with newspapers becoming “more reliant on news doled out by press release or official statement.”

This concentration of power in the print media was noted as far back as 1998 by Project Censored, which then forecast further consolidation. Indeed, in the article 'The News That Didn't Make the News and Why' (Project Censored Yearbook, 1998) author Robert McChesney detailed the awful arc of how our press had been compromised by wealthy or corporate interests. And that was 14 years ago! In the piece he noted that eleven media corporations had no less than 36 direct links to each other "creating a solid network of overlapping interests and affiliations" . Further, these 11 media conglomerates have "directorships interlocking with 144 of the 1,000 Fortune 500 companies"

Now, of course, as embodied by Dean Singleton, Rupert Murdoch and other "Citizen Kanes" - the media is essentially being gutted from the inside out. Once illuminating columnists are being tossed out onto the streets so dsinformation nabobs (liek Mike Rosen, in the Post, Michelle Malkin almost everyplace else) can have their dubious say. Meanwhile, editorials - like the Post's of August 16, asserting Obama was "more negative" than Romney and belonged to the 'Chicago school' of hard ball TV ads, skew public perceptions.

This spreading cancer means, of course, that most newspapers can no longer be trusted, never mind how many paid off, whore "gate keepers" they have. If their aim is mainly control of information- for the benefit of political slimeballs - as opposed to disseminating it for citizens' edification, then citizens are at a loss. Well, not quite! Serious blogs remain as a powerful alternative, especially blogs not dependent on money for their existence. Because in that case, the bloggers can’t be bought. They are then the most serious threats to faux journalism in the world, since the only currency that matters is the truth.

Of course, the tycoon-owned and controlled print media still looks down their collective noses at blogging as engaging in “digital graffiti”. Let them! Their days are numbered anyway, as more and more of the once grand print establishments collapse and either migrate exclusively to online sites, or disappear entirely.

The good thing is that intelligent people seeking real news and insights, uncompromised by money from puppeteer controllers and their canned PR bullshit, have other places to go. This blog is one of them. I make every effort to vet information, as well as provide sources where available, and also check out the reliability of those sources by going to confirmatory ones.

As for The Denver Post, once the current subscription expires I will likely not renew. Heck, it will provide more time to blog anyway. Or, increase time for my latest book project.

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