Newspapers across the country are in big trouble. And let’s face it, a democracy needs reliable sources of news. Which means newspapers and news magazines. Bloggers are bullshit. Television is hyperactive fluff.
Not that anybody is paying the slightest attention to me, but I can tell you how to fix your major metropolitan newspaper.
First — don’t publish daily. Today there are better sources of instantaneous news. Publish two or three times a week; Sunday and Thursday would be ideal. Take a little extra time and get the story right. Publish longer stories. Add depth.
Second — get rid of the crap. No comics, no horoscopes. Just give us news, analysis, and commentary. The crap sold papers sixty years ago, but people today already have way too many sources for free crap. Reviews of local plays and concerts, sure. We need that information. Reviews of TV shows? I’m not so sure.
Third — cheap sensationalism is not news! Don’t report on gory crimes at all. Instead, give us news that actually affects our lives. Tell us more about what the legislature is up to. Tell us about the environment we live in.
Fourth — don’t print wire service stories verbatim. Intersperse every wire service dispatch with intelligent analysis by local writers.
Fifth — and this may be the most controversial suggestion of all — hire delivery people who can get the damn paper up on the porch, not leave it lying in the gutter in the rain. Is that too much to ask?
One more thing, try writing with some objectivity for a change… I’m tired of all the opinions (either/both the reporter’s or/and the editor’s) that infiltrate nearly every paragraph. Wasn’t that why they had editorial pages?
I don’t know which papers you’re reading, Guanaco. I don’t see many opinions in the news stories in the San Francisco Chronicle. If anything, just the opposite. The Chronicle seems often to give a free ride to the ridiculous nonsense spewed by politicians. I’d much rather see the reporter gently point out to readers that the individual being quoted was conducting a song and dance rather than giving straight answers.
That “free ride” that the Chronicle gives is a good example of what I’m complaining about: in this case the editors and publisher are using their rag to promote the agendas of their selected politicians.
What happened to factual news? Just facts? Take any article in your paper and see how many pure facts (not quotes, either) are included. Then count how many are presented in an unbiased manner as opposed to those that are slanted to support the opinion of the reporter/editor/publisher? How many news articles are trying to draw you toward a certain conclusion rather than just present the information as it is?
This sort of activist news presentation is so pervasive that few people remember when news was meant to inform, not persuade.
I got so fed up with the bias in news that I’ve almost completely stopped paying attention to the broadcast and print media. I only read the local rag for local events. I rely on the internet to seek out as many points of view as possible on any news story of interest to me.
[Sorry about the rant, this issue has rankled me for many years, now; and it only got worse this past year.]
I see what you mean. You’re absolutely right that writing a story for a newspaper involves selecting some items for mention while omitting countless others. The reporter’s sense of what is important and what is trivial or flaky will inevitably come into play! Presenting a few quotes from spokespeople for opposing viewpoints doesn’t really address the underlying issue, which is that the reporter will have to choose stuff.
The solution is not, I think, to force reporters to stop using their judgment. Not only would the result be dull and aimless reading, all of the stories would end up being much, much too long. The solution is to have a healthy newspaper environment in which a variety of viewpoints can be thoroughly aired in one paper or another.