Column: Bookwhoring


The lessons this place has to teach have a hungry audience in journalism today. The rapacious demand for more and more profits, for the news to serve not the public but investors, has had a disastrous effect on American newspapers. Six-paper cities have become one-paper cities, afternoon dailies have moved into morning, big papers become smaller and smaller, bargaining that if they aren’t giving people what they need, giving them less should fix that problem.

More dangerous, national political reporting turns presidential elections into unholy hybrids of beauty contests and game shows, and wars into soundtracked soap operas. The voyeurism of the local news tells us to care about one family’s tragedy and ignore an entire city’s devastation; more people can tell me, no doubt, who the latest missing white woman is, than can tell me how many people were killed during Hurricane Katrina. Veterans of the business shrug their shoulders at all of it: What are you going to do?

In the face of these problems, our influential academics are fretting over the influence of the Internet, making Google a catch-all fall guy for the failings of advertising, marketing and news executives so bad at stewarding resources they make Soviet Russia look like a bastion of fiscal restraint. No amount of blaming teenagers showing their boobies on MySpace makes up for the fact that few newspapers have done a decent job of reminding the public why they’re necessary. If you’re not making your paper widely known and easily available and filled with vital content, you hardly need Craigslist’s help to screw it up.


4 thoughts on “Column: Bookwhoring

  1. Excellent, love. No use complaining about the internet. It’s here to stay. The tee-vee coverage of the presidential race is worse than dismal, and the papers ain’t much better. If the Dems take over, can’t we make you the People’s Commissar of Media, with dictatorial powers? You will MAKE them give us the news.

  2. Considering that even if you’re looking hard (I know; I tried this at one point), getting an official death toll for any recent major disaster (especially ones within the US) is a little bit like pulling teeth, I’m not surprised that more people know who the latest missing white chick is than how many people died in Hurricane Katrina. Hell, in the case of Hurricane Katrina, it would not surprise me at all if theauthorities (the ones who are supposed to be in charge, anyway) don’t even know for sure.
    I don’t know myself, and I was looking to find out. I can get into my files and give you an estimate, but it’ll have to be an inexact range, since no two sources I can get my hands on seem to agree with each other.
    I had the exact same trouble trying to determine how many people died on 11/09/2001. Not so much with Oklahoma City, though. Coincidence? Perhaps; I’d need to do more research. A failure of journalism in any case, however…

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