Local media blues

Outgoing Newhouse School dean David Rubin on local media:

“In Syracuse we have one provider of information about the city, the Syracuse Post Standard newspaper. Local TV got out of the serious news business a long time ago and citizens can’t hope to get serious information about how the city is governing itself from TV or radio.” [Rubin points to Hearst Argyle as an exception.] “Looking at Syracuse, he explains, the NBC affiliate is owned by an investment private equity firm and before that was owned by the Alabama State Pension Fund. The CBS affiliate is owned by Granite, a minority owned public company that’s under capitalized with too much debt. The ABC affiliate has been owned by Clear Channel. Nobody is local — nobody knows the market; they all are in it for the money. They are stations where not much money is being invested and a lot is being taken out. It’s no different in other cities around the country.”

On “citizen journalism” (er, I guess that would be “bloggers,” although this particular one doesn’t pretend to be a journalist – more like a high-tech letter-to-the-editor scribbler):

“Citizen journalism is an interesting addition to the mix, but I don’t trust them, I don’t know who they are. I trust trained reporters more than a group of citizen journalists.”

I understand Rubin’s point. However, although he may not know who I am, his Newhouse School knows who I am, since I keep getting the odd alumni newsletter from them. So, if he is looking for trained reporters (I did take COM 107 and newswriting, at least!) who stay in the local area (as opposed to decamping for Manhattan) and whose outlets are owned independently and locally, and who are not in it for the money… um… reporting for duty, sir?

7 thoughts on “Local media blues

  1. Brian Cubbison

    “In Syracuse we have one provider of information about the city, the Syracuse Post Standard newspaper.”

    I wonder how this would look on a billboard.

    Maybe with a starburst kind of thing that says: “Now with blogs!”

    It’s a lot to live up to.

  2. Robinia

    Agree completely with both comments above– “the price of freedom is vigilence” (which I always thought was more about civic engagement, observation and writing than military defense). To participate in civic dialogue and reflective writing about our times is a duty that we all share. Those with special talents and training may be in a position to contribute more. Thank you.

    I love the “Now with blogs!” billboard idea.

  3. Ellen Post author

    Great point, Robinia. It’s funny… people who write prodigious (pencil and paper) letters to the editor over the years, often seem to be regarded as something just short of cranks. But give ’em a website, and suddenly they take on new hipness or legitimacy? No, give those letter writers their proper place in the spectrum of journalism – or call bloggers cranks. (Or even, call newspaper columnists cranks, perhaps.) Seen that way, we have many more bloggers in the Syracuse media market than it might appear. I don’t understand the “either/or” thing… to me, it’s a big spectrum and “professionalism” is a standard for everyone.

  4. Phil

    Wow, Dean Rubin doesn’t shy away from perhaps unpopular opinion does he? The whole article is interesting.

    What’s doubly interesting is that the forum is on one of those citizen journalism blog type-things, although it looks like the propritor of the site is both an entrepreneur and has some mainstream media experience. Why no probing interview with Dean Rubin in the Newhouse family paper, now with blogs?

  5. sean

    i think you’re on to something when you talk about ‘cranks.’ to me, the definition of a ‘crank’ is not someone who’s perpetually opionionated … the definition of a crank is someone who cannot, when making an argument, stay within the framework of reasonable and accepted sources of information.

    the subtle difference between established newspapers and aspiring bloggers – at the beginning – is that the newspaper (all right, all right, i can already hear the hoots and whistles … some newspapers?) supposedly bring reputations for reliability to the table, while we know nothing of the new blogger … or whether he or she is indeed a ‘crank.’

    i think endurance and accuracy does the same thing for the blogger that it does for any journalistic ‘product.’ the bloggers i encounter electronically … nyco and phil and rich finzer and balogh and others … often have strong opinions and certainly, many times, enjoy volleying back and forth about local issues. but they’ve established their chops by being rational and using bedrock facts to support their arguments. all it takes is one episode of a blogger (or forum correspondent, for that matter) spinning off into fantasy-based rage or blather and it’s over. everything they write becomes suspect after that.

    there is no hard definition for the difference between citizen journalist and crank (i would like to think, at least sometimes, i still qualify for the former as much as the latter). but i think we all would agree: you know and smell it when you see it.


  6. Ellen

    Speaking of “citizen journalism” (ahem): Here’s an article that’s all about the perils of self-publishing in the absence of concern for (or grounding in) a real community. What a train wreck! (and one still continuing for this person, I’m afraid, although she seems reluctant to fully admit it) It’s not even necessary to read the whole article to figure out where it’s going.

    But, here’s an example of how you do that sort of “my life” thing effectively, in my opinion.

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