The newspaper industry certainly isn't what it used to be. Print circulation numbers across the board are dramatically down; ad revenues have crashed.
Here is the opening paragraph of the summary of the Congressional Research Service's The U.S. Newspaper Industry in Transition, published in September 9, 2010:
The U.S. newspaper industry is suffering through what could be its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Advertising revenues have plummeted due in part to the severe economic downturn, while readership habits have changed as consumers turn to the Internet for free news
and information. Some major newspaper chains are burdened by heavy debt loads. Between 2008 and early 2010, eight major newspaper chains declared bankruptcy, several big city papers shut down, and many laid off reporters and editors, imposed pay reductions, cut the size of the physical newspaper, or turned to Web-only publication.
One of the primary effects of this decline in newspapers' fortunes is that papers are now trying to do the same job with significantly less staff. According to the Pew Research Center's State of the News Media 2011, newspaper newsrooms are 30% smaller than in 2000.
What this most often means in practical terms is that newspapers are now devoting significantly less resources to the coverage of local politics. It's a lot less expensive to run a wire service story, or to report on a local crime, than it is to pay a journalist to sit through and then write a decent story of a city council meeting. Newspapers simply no longer have the resources necessary for the proper coverage of city hall.
Last month The Los Angeles Times ran a story entitled, FCC Report on Media Warns of Decline in Local News Coverage. In part the article reads:
A new report from the Federal Communications Commission warned that the "independent watchdog function that the founding fathers envisioned for journalism" is at risk in local communities across the country.
In a 475-page report released this week titled "The Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age," the government regulatory agency — which watches over television, radio and certain aspects of the Internet — said there was a "shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting" that could lead to "more government waste, more local corruption," "less effective schools" and other problems. ... FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement released with the report, "The less quality reporting we have, the less likely we are to learn about government misdeeds."
That final point is well taken; this is an increasingly great time time to be a crooked politician. No more snooping reporters asking bothersome questions about expense accounts and behind-door meetings. No more impertinent requests for public records. No more "public watchdogs" sniffing around city hall, digging into corners where they might unearth meaty bones best left buried.
We hear much talk these days about "citizen journalists." And it's good that we do; in some very real ways, citizen journalists are the only journalists left. The big dailies aren't covering city hall anymore. So if you want city hall covered, you have to cover it yourself. And who better to do that than you and citizens like you? Nobody cares about local politics like local citizens. Nobody can. The adage is true for a reason; all politics is local.
If you're a blogger, start sitting in on, and writing about, city council meetings. Get to know who's who in your local city government. Get on the email lists coming out your city and county's primary government offices. Show up at press conferences. Attend public forums. Raise questions. Insist on explanations. Request private meetings. Help the people who work for the office of the mayor and other local public officials to remember that they work for you and people just like you. Help restore the balance of power between the local citizenry and the people who were elected to represent them.
And don't go it alone, either. That's too difficult; there's too much ground to cover. Instead, reach out to your fellow informed local bloggers. Join or form a coalition of local politico bloggers such that, after awhile, your group becomes the go-to place for people in your area wanting to understand what's really happening with their tax dollars and local resources.
Be thorough; be precise; be professional; work in coordination with others. And stay at it. You'll get the results you're after. You will force politicians and government officials to be as accountable as they should be. You'll provide an invaluable service to your community.
You'll make a difference.
The fourth estate isn't dead. It's just got a whole new set of offices. And one of the best of those offices could be as close as your kitchen table.
(Graph originally published at The Awl.)
Post submitted by guest blogger John Shore, who also blogs at JohnShore.com. He invites you to "like" his Facebook page.
Freedom to feed the poor
Freedom to not want war
Freedom to be married and gay
Freedom to be born that way
Freedom to have a mission
Freedom to be a liberal AND a Christian
Freedom, Freedom, Freedom
(Post submitted by Stacy Toy, who is a member of The Christian Left and a Guest Poet).
Christine McQueen - Guest Blogger
As I sit here typing this, I’m re-watching the movie “Milk” and getting angry all over again about the stupidity of people like Anita Bryant. I remember watching her speeches 30+ years ago and wondering what the hell was wrong with her. I just couldn’t understand why Ms. Bryant and so many like her thought homosexuals were such a threat and even then using their religious beliefs to push their agenda on us all. I had known one homosexual man, a substitute teacher in high school. He never tried to ‘recruit’ any of the boys in class. He simply taught the subject of whichever class he was substituting in. (Though we all suspected, he was still closeted in 1969 when I first knew him. It was confirmed a few years later when his sister lived in the same apartment building as my husband and I.)
In all actuality, I pretty much ignored what was happening, though I simmered silently and I made a point of letting those around me know that I wouldn’t put up with anti-gay talk in my presence. I wouldn’t put up with any kind of judgment against anyone. One of the very first things I learned in church as a child was that we were not to judge our fellow human beings, but only to love them as God loves us all. Those who claim to be Christian are dishonoring Christ when they make judgments about the lives of others.
It wasn’t until late 1998, after the death of my husband, that I became even peripherally involved, after I joined AOL and began using their message boards. It was a story on AOL that led me to the boards discussing ‘gay issues’ and I have to say that some of the nonsense some people were posting made me physically ill. One of the issues I remember most clearly was the Supreme Court decision that voided laws against ‘sodomy’ in all fifty states. It clearly effected gay men more than anyone because those were the laws most police agencies used to persecute gay men. I pointed out to one fellow that, as the SC said, it was an invasion of privacy. I also pointed out that those same laws, because of the way they were written, could be used to arrest a man and wife who occasionally enjoyed anal or oral sex. (That was when I learned that the oral sex my late husband and I had enjoyed was illegal in our state!) I asked one man how it would make him feel if the cops burst in to his home while he was having sex with his wife. He said it couldn’t ever happen. Asked him what state he lived in, looked it up and told him that he COULD be arrested if he and his wife had oral sex because that was written into the law against ‘sodomy’ in his state. (Also provided him with a link where he could read it for himself.) I don’t think it changed his mind about homosexuality, but it sure made him pay more attention to exactly what laws were being passed in his state and in the country and the wording of them.
The ones who have always ticked me off are those who refuse to look at the evidence or refuse to believe said evidence. Those who still blame AIDS on homosexuality; those who make claims that somehow the gays in their cities (or even in remote cities) are somehow ‘to blame’ for their son or daughter (or nephew/niece or uncle/aunt or brother/sister) “becoming” gay. For some reason they just cannot accept that no one “becomes” gay; that a person either is or isn’t gay through no choice or action of their own or anyone else’s. Tell them that a gay man who lives to 100 as a virgin is still a gay man and they’ll argue with you. (Tell them I’ve not had sex since my husband died in 1998 and they’ll try to say I’m “no longer” a heterosexual!)
Another group that pisses me off are the ones who try to claim this is a “Christian nation”. Point out that there are only two mentions of religion in the Constitution and both of those are prohibitions, (Article VI states quite clearly that “….no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” and the 1st amendment which, by declaring freedom of religion, prohibits any national religion) and they’ll try to argue the way the date is recorded or jump to another document, claiming relevance of the wording of the Declaration of Independence or other documents as ’founding documents’. I’ve even read claims that the 1st Amendment means “freedom to choose any denomination of Christianity” but no other religion!
Then there are the ones who try to tell me I’m not Christian because my beliefs don’t march in lock-step with theirs. Ask them to define “Christian” and they’ll give you a litany of their beliefs, rather than stating the obvious: A Christian is one who believes in and follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. Ask them what Jesus taught on just about any subject and they start quoting Old Testament verses, rather than the words in the Gospels that are His words and teachings. Point out His teaching that we are not to judge others and they’ll find verses from other books saying we are, completely misunderstanding that those books are talking about judging within their own church, not anyone and everyone.
In short, I guess my activism (mostly on-line in various forums, though I have occasionally confronted bigots in person) stems from my belief that no one has the right to tell another how to live, except in cases where actual harm can be caused. As I see no harm being caused by two gay men or two lesbians getting married or simply living their lives, or by a transsexual expressing his/her gender, I will not sit by and watch as others attempt to insult, degrade or persecute them. Just as I will not sit by and watch as anyone tries to insult, degrade or persecute another for not following any certain religion.
About TCL Blog
We’re not about Dogma here. We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong.
Charles Toy is the founding member of The Christian Left. We're sure you will enjoy his passion as well as his wit. Guest bloggers featured often.