You know, I was at a meeting on Saturday in which yet again the vague sense of pressure to replace the American newspaper began to be discussed (and was mercifully stopped by the moderator) but it’s really becoming a thing.A very annoying thing:
You don’t see newspapers fighting to open court proceedings the way they used to, and people are starting to notice.
days of powerful newspapers with ample legal budgets appear to be
numbered,” a public defender in Georgia, Gerard Kleinrock, wrote in a
recent Supreme Courtbrief. “Will underfunded bloggers be able to carry the financial burdens of opening our courtrooms?”
Let’s start with the most obvious point: THAT’S NOT MY JOB. My job, as I’ve assigned it to myself, is to be an Internet smartass. If I manage to commit some journalism in the process of making cat macros and quoting Chris Dodd’s finest oratory, okay, but nowhere in the mission statement of this site (TRY NOT TO SUCK) does it say, “Pick up the slack the New York Times and its smaller-town counterparts have willingly laid down.” And they have willingly laid it down:
Thanks to The Press-Enterprise, a newspaper in Riverside, Calif., the press and the public have nearly an absolute constitutional right to attend jury selection in criminal cases. In the 1980s, the paper fought ferociously toestablish that principle, takingtwo access cases to the Supreme Court.
News organizations used to consider those kinds of lawsuits a matter of civic responsibility.
the last four decades, maybe longer, citizens have been able to rely on
small, medium and large news organizations, mostly newspapers, to fight
their access battles on their behalf,” said Lucy Dalglish, the
executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press,
which has filed a supportingbrief in Mr. Presley’s case.
These days, she said, “the access litigations have dried up.”
It is notable, for instance, that theAmerican Civil Liberties Union
and other civil rights groups have taken the leading role in trying to
shake loose information about the Bush administration’s policies and
actions, while news organizations have largely sat on the sidelines.
One of the things that drove me out of daily journalism was the refusal of the paper’s higher-ups to pay a lousy $10K to fight to open court records. I yelled. I begged. I asked them to take it out of my paycheck. And I was told there wasn’t any money and it wasn’t important enough. But there sure was plenty in the budget of the company that owned us for summer drinks at parties. Apparently mango margaritas were pretty damn crucial.
My point is that you can’t give up on something and then get pissy with bloggers because they don’t do it. If you want it done, you have to do it yourself. That’s one of the things that drove me out of daily journalism, too. Out here with my cat macros and Chris Dodd, I have the ability to pursue whatever stories I want to pursue and thanks to the generosity of our readers so do all the writers here. But I don’t have the responsibility to do a story the Times or the Press-Enterprise wants done. They have that responsibility.
(Oh, and the central point is bullshit anyway, because: Marcy Wheeler, the Beachwood Reporter, Scout, TPM, and a ton of local bloggers I don’t know about who are probably working their asses off. Once in a great while I’d like these media stroke-sessions to include actual facts. Just a couple of times out of a billion.)