By Alan Caruba
As someone who began his career in journalism, working for weeklies, moving on to a daily, and later seeing my by-line on occasion in The New York Times, I have a nostalgic fondness for newsprint. I actually start my day reading my local daily, albeit mostly checking the obituary pages—it’s an age thing—and having a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
Then, in order to really know what is going on in the nation and the world, I surf the Net for an hour, visiting various news and opinion websites (some of which post my writings). It is virtually impossible to get a sense of reality from newspapers that continue to tell you that the Earth is in a midst of a perilous global warming that will require shutting down all the coal-fired plants in the nation.
Since new technology drives out old technology, accounting for why two percent of the population now feeds all the rest of us, it should come as no surprise that great city newspapers are dying for loss of classified and other advertising. The other reason is that most newswire and daily news reporting simply cannot be trusted any more.
Historically, American newspapers were often notorious for having their own agenda, but they were just as often the only game in town if you wanted the news. Some cities supported four, five or more newspapers depending on your own bias. The notion of the “objective” reporter was always suspect, but my generation of reporters did not feel that their job description included agreeing with their publisher on all issues.
The most egregious example is the alleged “environmental” reporting in The New York Times which has never reflected the actual science of global warming and other Green obsessions. For some twenty years or more, it has had a succession of reporters, all of whom were astonishingly indifferent to science or even the truth.
The latest is Andrew Revkin who was unable to ignore the fact that 700 or so of the world’s leading climatologists, meteorologists, physicists, economists, and others were meeting in New York this passed week to debunk global warming. His report on the event was an insult to those participating and attending.
This is how Revkin described The Heartland Institute’s second annual International Conference on Climate Change: “More than 600 self-professed climate skeptics are meeting in a Times Square hotel this week to challenge what has become a broad scientific and political consensus: that without big changes in energy choices, humans will dangerously heat up the planet.”
If you were hoping for any accurate reporting in that sentence or the rest of his article, you are still waiting for it. I was there. One of the items I brought home was a thick book filled with the names of 31,478 American scientists who signed a global warming petition, agreeing that “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, will cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” There is no “broad scientific and political consensus.”
As Jim Peden, an atmospheric physicist, noted in an email to fellow skeptics, “I think we’re all being a bit too hard on Revkin. He is, after all, only doing his job…to support and defend the liberal editorial policies of his employers. In case you haven’t noticed, the New York Times, once arguably one of the premier news sources on the planet, is slowly dying. It hasn’t had a genuinely honest journalist on its staff in more than two decades, and anyone who attempts to put the genie back in the bottle at this late stage of the game would likely find himself out of a job.”
Meanwhile, the United Press International devoted four thin paragraphs to the conference citing “signs of internal disputes and weakening support.” Nothing could have been further from the truth. Little wonder Rush Limbaugh refers to them as “the drive-by media.”
This is, I believe, an increasing component of the reason U.S. dailies such as Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and a host of cities are going to be down to having one or no daily newspaper. The news they have been delivering is not reliably true or even an effort to reflect a balanced presentation of conflicting versions of events and issues.
It must be said that publishing a newspaper is a tremendously labor-intensive undertaking requiring a phalanx of reporters and editors backed up by an advertising department, a circulation department, the men who actually print it, and those who then deliver it. There is almost no way to trim such people from the payroll without doing grave injury to the process and the product.
That is particularly evident when it comes to local reporting, the heart and soul of a newspaper. Somebody must attend the many meetings of the city council, the transportation and education boards, ad infinitum. Some newspapers will survive by becoming solely their website.
It is entirely likely that, in the future, someone will attend and will then post their reports on Internet sites specific to the topic of interest. You will bookmark a variety of such local sites to keep up to date. In the meantime, there are already countless sites that are devoted to what’s going on in hometowns everywhere.
Let me tell you a story. Once, very long ago, I was auditioning for a job with the daily newspaper serving a vast swath of my home State. The editor asked me to write a series on the local chapters of the Humane Society and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. What I unearthed was a great deal of hypocrisy and degrees of corrupt behavior. When I turned in the assignment, the editor said to me, “I don’t think you understand. I wanted something along the lines of Jane and her pet duck, not a wholesale exposure of these people. Pet owners would be enraged.”
Well, yes, that was the point. Suffice it to say that I decided to take up public relations where, at least, I could earn a lot more than a lowly reporter. I also lost a large degree of respect for what passed for journalism then and, over the years, now.
So, yes, local dailies, some with illustrious histories, are shutting down. They will be missed, but they will be replaced by some very lively, engaged, and hopefully accurate Internet reporting that has long since been missing from what passes for daily newspapers these days.