Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Self-Inflicted Mass Murder of the Press (Steve Lopez Editorial)

The press isn't dying because of outside assailants.

The press is dying due to self-inflicted wounds, from its incapacity to innovate, to its perverse attachment to out-of-touch, elitist sentiments with no grounding in reality.

Working people get tired of reading how being working people is somehow something to be ashamed of.

Just to show how much they have lost their way, one of the few remaining editorial writers still calls the United States a "democracy", and he is convinced that democracy is in danger as the printed press loses power and presence.

Steve Lopez is bemoaning the fact that he will be out of a job soon, too.

The body count is staggering.

In my 43 years as a journalist, armies of trained bloodhounds have been run out of newsrooms where I've worked, victims of layoffs, and buyouts, and battle fatigue. I've lost so many hundreds of colleagues, I can't keep track of where they ended up.

They were never really colleagues, I suppose. What business were they supposed to be in? Telling the truth, reporting the facts, informing the public. The press turned into a propaganda mill for the left, pushing hard to make readers think the way they wanted them to think.

That is not acceptable. Not at all.

Of course, the histrionics of "body count" shows the self-importance with which reporters view themselves. It's time that they were scuttled out. The moment you start believing the headlines, or believe that you had everything to do with the headlines in the paper, that's the moment you become expendable.

These were smart, curious reporters, photographers and editors who told stories that defined place and time and made us all know each other a little better. They covered the arts and the local sports teams. They bird-dogged city councils, courts, law enforcement, school districts and other agencies that spend our tax dollars, bearing witness, asking questions and rooting out corruption.

So much self-serving praise from Skelton. Where are your jests now, O Yorrick!

There is less watching today, even though California's population has nearly doubled since I began my career, and we are all poorer for it.

The state of California is poorer since the state's population doubled, since much of the in-bound migration consists of deadbeats, welfare queens, and illegal aliens.

Yes, mass migration has made California poorer, much poorer.

It might seem like the opposite is true — that there's more information available than ever, because of incessant chirping on cable news, nightly car chases on local outlets, digital news sites and social media news feeds.

There is more reporting, that's for sure. Americans want news still, but the liberal press was not interested in reporting the news, as much as shaping it and then making it. How many false reports are unsubstantiated rumors ended up on the front page of national periodicals like Gospel truth? How many reporters were canned from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other periodicals because of failing journalistic standards?

But what's vanished or been greatly diminished in far too many places is good, solid reporting on local and state affairs, and we don't even know what that has cost us through mismanagement, misuse of funds and outright corruption.

Was it solid? Is the reporting gone?

Individual citizens with community interest at heart have provided plenty of reporting on their own. Activists can record events live, in person, and get the whole story out to the public without a filter. The corrupt, destructive nature of the mainstream media can no longer color to distortion what is going on in the world.

Sure, the Los Angeles Times and other papers can still pull off exposes such as the freeloading scandal in Bell or the payola bonanza involving the developer of a Harbor Gateway project. Just note the Pulitzer won by the East Bay Times last year for its coverage of the Ghost Ship fire — an achievement its staff earned after years of deep cuts and consolidation.

Regular, everyday citizens can do this, and do it more often in their own cities. They have a more intense interest to do so, since it's their own cities which they fight to protect.

But those investigations take lots of time and people, and they don't happen as often as they should because fewer and fewer snoops are checking records, knocking on doors and making a nuisance of themselves.

To better describe what's happened to the business, let me take you back to 1975. I'd just gotten my first job out of college, as a sportswriter in the Sacramento suburbs. I was assigned to the Davis branch of the Woodland Daily Democrat at a weekly salary of $135.

Let's also talk about how the forced wage hikes and regulatory burdens that are hurting businesses large and small. Their devastating consequences hurt newspapers and media industries, too!

Today, there is no Davis branch. When I checked with the Daily Democrat last week, editor/reporter/photographer Jim Smith told me that in the last 20 years, his staff of 15 has gone down to just five.

I moved from the Daily Democrat to three nearby newspapers over the next few years — the Pittsburg Post-Dispatch, Concord Transcript and Oakland Tribune, where I pulled a switch from sports to news.

None of those papers still exist.

Papers are disappearing in large numbers, or they are folding into larger newspapers. Just now, I found out that the Ventura County Star is part of the larger Southern California News Group, which covers pretty much every major newspaper in, you guessed it, Southern California.

Funny but true. The main story in all of these papers focused on the efforts of pro-Trump, pro-rule of law activists going from one city council to the next denouncing sanctuary state and pushing for the restoration of the federal immigration law as the Supreme Law of the Land. The story had wide enough currency that readers could get something out of it, I suppose. But we have only begun to fight, and there is so much work to be done in Ventura County.

My next stop was the San Jose Mercury News, a storied newspaper with a first-rate editorial staff of about 400 at its height. Today the Mercury News is down to about 110 people and has lost about 70% of its staff in the last two decades, even as Silicon Valley became one of the most important stories in the world.

Ouch! I would submit that there is a direct correlation with the number of middle-income earnings fleeing the region and the state to the declining circulation of the print media. What do you think?

I saw the same trends in my years with the Philadelphia Inquirer and Time magazine, and the problem was never a lack of public demand for news. What changed was that the internet offered new options to advertisers, and newspaper revenues diminished despite ongoing attempts to make the industry more digitized. Soon, newsrooms had so many empty desks, they looked like furniture showrooms.

They probably provide a better service as show rooms. Ha Ha! Empty desks tell no tales, right?

Bankruptcies and shutdowns followed, independent voices became corporatized, and the cost of continued profits was more bloodshed.

What a crock. The Big Media empire had been corporatized for decades. How else did we get a creep like Barack Obama in office? How about the fact that Bill Clinton got away with lying under oath to a grand jury?

Consider this:

The first five newspapers I worked for — in Woodland, Pittsburg, Concord, Oakland and San Jose — were folded into a single company over time. That company is Digital First Media, which has followed the same consolidation pattern with its newspapers in Southern California.

I have considered it, and it's awesome!

A smarter guy would have gotten out of the business. But I didn't know how to do anything else, so I kept moving, like a man trying to outrun a wildfire. Behind me, the earth was scorched. But there was no smoke rising in Los Angeles when I arrived 17 years ago, so I told myself this was it. Between the mountains and the beach, a million untold tales. No more running for me, except to chase good stories and bad actors.

Now Steve Lopez shows some humility. Newspapermen aren't that smart anymore. They are so committed to their liberal regressive worldview, that there is no right or wrong, but rather environment and culture determine relative interests and commitments. What a shame, since that biased shameful sham of worldview colored every aspect of their reporting, to the hurt of the readers and the general public. No wonder so many editors were comfortable with "We only have to be right for one day."

Now their papers may not see the light of day.

I wish I could tell you it's been nothing but cupcakes and cartwheels ever since, but the Los Angeles Times got hit by the same beetle that sawed through the rest of the industry, and the staff today is just more than one-third the size it was when I started.

And you are all moving to El Segundo!

I can't tell you how many clowns, buffoons and scoundrels have taken the reins of the parent company, promised great things and then fled in the night with blood on their hands and briefcases full of money.

Do you think it's a good idea to mock your employers, there, Stevie boy? They still don't get that they work for others, that they have a service and a product to provide to consumers. Most people simply don't want what they are delivering anymore.

You get to thinking there's no way out. Then you wake up one day and hear that somebody wants to come to the rescue.

Naturally, you're skeptical. It's a professional duty.

Once again, that flimsy distance from that funny thing called "truth." Journalists stopped believing in objective reality, or something? Perhaps it's racist. That kind of thing matters more than reporting the events, since social justice warriors are the only ones seeking degrees in journalism.

I've never met billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who is closing a deal to take over The Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, Hoy and our community newspapers. You'd think a man whose goal is to cure cancer would have his hands full, but now the good doctor wants to take on a different kind of terminal patient.

Notice that Lopez calls his parent paper "terminal patient." There's no helping this rag.

Soon-Shiong dropped by the office Friday and told his story. He grew up in South Africa during apartheid, locked out of all-white schools as an Asian. In his first job as a doctor, he got half the pay of white doctors. He moved on to Canada and later Los Angeles, making a home — as an Asian African American — in one of the most diverse places in the world.

There's a telling irony in this new publisher. He cuts through the lies of the modern liberal mindset about poverty, race, and class. This doctor came from a tough, troubled background, yet accomplished so much. He would have fallen into a "victim class" according to many reporters.

But he was no victim. He has done great deeds, and maybe his final effort will be shuttering the Los Angeles Times for good.

He said he wanted to grow the paper, that he believes in compassion and consideration, and that the business model is quality, and that the newspaper's role in the community is vital. He wants The Times to be a beacon, a barrier against the tides of fake news, a voice of the West and beyond.

Soon-Shiong is concerned about fake news. How about calling it what it really is--lies? If he wants to protect "The West", then the paper needs a decidedly conservative tilt.

But will there be anything close to that? What community does the new publisher hope to target?

Was this a hoax?

Right after Soon-Shiong said the newspaper is a public service in the private sector, I wondered if he'd pull off a mask to reveal the face of a Tribune or Tronc executive.

But it didn't happen, and it was nice, after years of casualties, to hear someone talk about rebuilding locally, nationally and internationally.

Does the Good Doctor have any business experience or business sense? I have a feeling that he is going to discontinue print workings entirely and move to an entirely digital experience.

Dying of thirst, we wanted to drink the Kool-Aid, even after Soon-Shiong shocked the room with news that the home office is moving to El Segundo, with a satellite office downtown.

Talk is cheap, though, as we were repeatedly reminded by previous owners.

We'll work hard. We'll hope for the best.

We'll see.

I can't kid you. We've lost tons of knowledge and experience over the years. But what's left is a lot of talent, hunger, young energy and diversity, and a fighting spirit that led to formation of a union to take on the evil deeds of corporate thugs and beat a drum on pay disparities. Here's hoping Soon-Shiong comes through on the promise to grow the paper's staff and reach, because the city and state need more watchdogs, more eyes and ears in places where today there is no witness to the daily dramas that shape our lives.

The buzz word "Diversity" emerges out of the paragraph. Even Steve Lopez has been taken in by the dissimulation. This is the final standard, a newspaper office filled with people who just happen to have different shades of skin color. Whatever happened to judging people--and their reporting--by their content?

I feel like I was in hospice and a new doctor said hold on, don't plan the funeral just yet. With appreciation, I thought back on how I almost ended up in an entirely different line of work.

So much histrionics. This is not a death for the reading public, but an expansion and an opportunity for real journalism which exposes waste, fraud, corruption, and the like.

1 comment:

  1. A person weblog is actually eye-catching. We delight in this. Many thanks with regard to discussing this particular stunning written piece beside me.
    Tourist visa to usa