My local newspaper published a disturbing editorial today. It seems they will no longer be running editorials to make recommendations in political races.
What I find troubling about this is not just the realization my local paper has decided to cede to the Internet, rumors, and coffee talk their civic responsibility to intelligently weigh the options when election time rolls around. No, it’s more than that. My bigger issue is they went quietly, without a fight.
As the apologist editorial running today makes clear, this was a corporate decision. The owner of the paper, the Halifax Media Group, has apparently come to the conclusion that it is better to publish a bland, occasionally inaccurate newspaper of dubious value to the reader, than it is to risk offending that reader.
Welcome to the end of print journalism folks. When it becomes too risky to express considered opinions on the editorial and opinion pages of the newspaper – we all lose. Our penchant for political correctness now prevents the primary news gathering machine in our cities and towns from freely expressing themselves.
What’s the point of a first amendment right to free speech if the publications who need it most are afraid to exercise that right?
Admittedly, I’ve had my differences with my local paper. Their once proud tradition of publication has been replaced in recent years by an ever shallowing curiosity to ferret out facts, and a troubling willingness to print opinons on the news pages, as if they were facts. That’s not good. But today’s announcement is worse. This is the culmination of a nightmare scenario men of my grandfather’s time feared – a country with no serious news coverage.
In this respect at least, the computer industry, the news industry, and the political stability of our cities, counties, states, and nation all share a common truism. Garbage in, garbage out. If you do not provide high quality input, you will inevitably suffer from poor quality output. It’s just that simple.
This is a sad day. Newspapers across the nation are gutting themselves, willingly, in a vain attempt to pander to a readership who have options. And my local newspaper just admitted it in public without the decency to even show signs of embarrassment as they abdicate their responsibilities.
In the old days you read the paper, or you were ignorant of what was happening in the world. Today, we have so many options our heads are swimming. Most of those options are Internet based, and often their journalistic standards are so low, or so skewed, the information they choose to share is of dubious value to the public. Shockingly, those low standards are now superior to what many of our long-lived newspapers can deliver to us. And so readers are dropping their subscriptions and ignoring newspapers in large numbers. Not because they’re too offensive, rather because they are too bland, too pointless, too careful not to offend – even at the price of failing to inform the reader who dropped their quarters into the slot expecting better.
It is a disappointment that publishers and editors have so easily knuckled under to short sighted boards in far off cities. Our newspapers are worse for it. Our communities are worse for it. And soon, our political process will suffer mightily because those who were charged with informing us have chosen instead to focus on publishing nothing more challenging than entertainment fluff, discount coupons, and obituaries.