Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Three More Nails in Journalism's Coffin

Three More Nails in Journalism's Coffin

Three vaguely related stories tied by the common thread of The Death Of Journalism As We Know It:

  • Another week, another dead tree edition death as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer prints its last. At least they're surviving online, which is better than the Rocky Mountain News managed. They're almost impossible to keep up with; next week the Tucson Citizen dies.

  • The old school of Beltway journalism takes a hit to its ego as President Obama decides he's rather spend spring break with the kids than attend the Gridiron Dinner, the DC press corps' occasion to play dress-up, socialize with the people they're supposed to be covering, and watch lame comedy skits performed by the politically powerful.

    "Make no mistake," writes The Politico, "Obama deciding that he is too busy to attend the Gridiron’s annual banquet later this month is a slap." (This is a bigger slap to the ego of the old school, but the more substantive slap was calling on Huffington Post at his first press conference.) "He’s the first president since Grover Cleveland to skip the white-tie-and-tails affair in his first year in office." Not noted is whether that's Cleveland 22 or Cleveland 24; I'm guessing Grover just had a sore throat and couldn't wow the crowd with a rousing chorus of "Ma, Ma, Where's My Pa."

    The Gridiron club is so old-school that it wasn't until 2005 that broadcast journalists were able to join. At the rate papers are dying, there'd be no membership left.

    Politico describes the Gridiron membership as "aging" and notes that their balloon of self-importance has been popped. More ominously, we read:
    The regional newspaper bureaus from which the club drew many of its members are on the ropes. Leubsdorf works for The Dallas Morning News, which has scaled back its capital staff. George Condon was bureau chief for the Copley newspaper chain — owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune — which recently shuttered its bureau. He now writes for CongressDaily. Dick Cooper worked for the Los Angeles Times, which has suffered severe cuts to its D.C. bureau and was merged with the Tribune Co. for whom he now works.

    Here's another example: the Des Moines Register's downsized Jane Norman, who just got her membership last year and "got" to play half of a horse on stage (front half). That's the kind of print reporter for whom the Gridiron Dinner would be the night of the year.

    Gridiron humor is old-fashioned non-partisan Mark Russell stuff; "singe but never burn" is their motto. What kind of motto is that for a group of journalists? The ur-Gridiron skit was Nancy Reagan's song and dance about her china, but while they were chuckling no one seriously questioned her husband's actual policies. (Blast from the past: the leftist FMLN that we financed so many death squads to stop just came to power in El Salvador.) Which leads to my next nail:

  • Jon Stewart's smackdown of CNBC's Jim Cramer on the Daily Show last week. Can you imagine Jon Stewart buying into "singe but never burn"? "Somebody's not doing their fuBEEPn' job," he'd say, then he'd burn them at the stake and roast marshmallows over the coals, using the bones for sticks.

    It speaks volumes about the state of journalism that it took a partisan comedian to do the job that no economic "journalist" could do in the leadup to the collapse of the markets. The old school journalists of the Gridiron ilk are still wedded to Objective Neutrality, while Stewart and Olbermann--hell, even the likes of Buchanan and Scarborough--run rings around them by simply having a viewpoint.

    More fuel for my conclusion that what will eventually evolve out of The Death Of Journalism As We Know It is an American partisan press like the rest of the world has. I have seen the future and... well, you're reading it.
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