Monday, January 5, 2015

'Itch' Reporter Is Victim of U.S. Media Breakup

While 'The Suburban Itch' lights up the issue of racial profiling with a role reversal, the sad state of journalism does not escape the political swath of our story.

DeMarcus Malone, the white guy who is hassled by police for looking "suspicious" in a poor neighborhood, is a prize-winning print reporter.  Ultimately a victim of the times, DeMarcus loses his job when the fictional newspaper, the Memphis News-Times, closes shop. 

Reality blows.  The Commercial Appeal cut 17 employees in September.  Owner E.W. Scripps concurrently announced it was selling off its print assets and The Commercial Appeal would be owned by the Milwaukee-based Journal Media Group. Click to read story in the Memphis Flyer. 

The Tennessean in August fired all of its reporters, editors and photographers and told them they could re-apply for jobs with a spin-off print company reorganized by media giant Gannett.  Click to read story in the Nashville Scene. 

Go to to see the stories that James Miles reads on his cell phone while his daughter Marybeth is handcuffed to DeMarcus.  Yeah, we created a website for DeMarcus' failed paper.  DeMarcus is the subject of, not the reporter of, one story, headlined:  "Our Reporter Beaten, Arrested at Occupy Wall Street!" 

So, the mass media conglomerates are throwing out their print holdings with both hands while hanging onto TV and digital assets.  Gannett, publisher of USA Today and the nation's largest newspaper chain, is doing companywide what they did to The Tennessean, cutting editorial staff across the board by 15 percent.  

Who is going to take up the slack left by the demise of journalism?   The ability of the people to be informed is protected in the First Amendment, which sets aside the press as the only commercial endeavor which gets such elevated status.

Network TV news no longer exists as a separate division, as did CBS News during the years of Walter Cronkite.  The operation may or may not have been profitable any given year, but that was not the point.  There was prestige for the network and honor in doing an important job.  Now, all network news outfits are wholly within the corporate structure, which means the measure of their success is the bottom line, not good journalism.

Instead of digging for the stories -- and the stories under the surface -- the contemporary media fill us up with cats chasing balloons and Kardashian sightings. 

 Instead of editors with strong backgrounds in journalism, today's daily newspapers are headed by "content executives," which means simply this:

Give the people in our target demographic what they want -- not what they need -- and what will drive circulation and ad volume.  These new-era managers talk about "user experience" and, as The Tennessean's executive editor Stefanie Murray spun, the "newsroom of the future" as we are "continually reinventing ourselves."   

Is former Tennessean editor and publisher John Seigenthaler, who died in 2014, already rolling over in his grave?   The top three execs now in The Tennessean's newsroom combined have  less than five years experience.