Missing the Point. Again.

Posted by on Oct 24, 2013 in Blog | No Comments

Many thanks to WSU Tri-Cities for inviting me to speak about “The New Front Page,” my talk on the changes in journalism and what they mean for all of us. My Oct. 17 discussion, sponsored by Humanities Washington, generated some sparks when Gregg McConnell, publisher of the local Tri-City Herald, stood up to castigate me as I was mid-sentence.

 “You’re doing a disservice to community journalism,” he said of the examples I‘d provided to illustrate the chilling effect that financial considerations can have on news coverage.

Perhaps I’d touched a nerve. McConnell, a 38-year veteran of the industry, has had an up-close view of this country’s newspaper implosion, watching dozens of dailies fold or consolidate. He was brought in as publisher to oversee a “streamlining” process at two California newspapers in 2009. Most recently, he was “excited by” an agreement with the Yakima Herald-Republic that was projected to lay off 40 of his staffers. McConnell seemed worried that my description of questionable news judgment at other papers would reflect poorly on the practices at his own.

It’s likely, of course, that he had no choice in the deal. This is the direction of our entire industry, which is exactly my point: Readers need to know that they have more of a voice in news coverage than ever before because publishers are tracking their preferences as never before. In other words, if you want strong local news, participate. Read the paper.

Got something to say about this? Please email me at: write2rowe@gmail.com.

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