The impending sale of the Idaho Statesman’s terminally ill adoptive parent has caused many in the newsroom to ponder the question “who’s your daddy now.”
The mood in the newsroom was euphoria that they escaped reacquisition by Gannett, muted optimism about McClatchy, and a little remorse at the loss of Knight-Ridder before anyone really got to know them. They all rejoiced like emancipated slaves when Gannett sold out to Knight-Ridder only a few months ago. Now McClatchy, owners of a group of Californian papers, will be the master in the Big House. With 80% of the stock controlled by the family, it could be good news or bad for Boise readers.
Statesman old timer Tim Woodward has outlasted 8 executive editors, 8 publishers, and everyone in the newsroom in the past 34 years. Those numbers mean the brass had an average residency of about 4 years. It takes that long just to learn that Mormons don’t have beards, wear bonnets or long dresses and there is probably one within earshot as we speak.
The days of a kindly old man running the local paper or a brash young editor devoted to cleaning up public corruption are almost a thing of the past in American Journalism. Like the “ma and pa grocery,” the corner service station, and real hardware stores, hometown newspapers are few and far between.
Readers who peruse their morning paper view it as a source of news and information–sprinkled with comics, crossword puzzles, movie times, TV program listings, and letters from passionate readers. Mangement sees it differently.
Most of today’s newspaper publishers view a newspaper as a vehicle for advertising. It becomes a delicately balanced wheel (vicious circle). Cover the news to create circulation (readership), use the circulation to sell the ads which create the money to cover the news, then use the money to cover the news and create the circulation….round and round. The balance is lost when the money is sent off to some corporate headquarters–like the franchise fees for a fast food restaurant.
Toss television and internet blogs into the equation and the balance is thrown off even more, causing the wheel to wobble. Television competes for viewers with sensational stories of “Female, Mormon and Gay living in Idaho.” (a recent Channel 6 offering) Even the GUARDIAN attracts news hungry readers by covering stories the STATESMAN either misses or refuses to publish. At the Statesman they are still devoting coverage to Lewis & Clark and that story is 200 years old!
Bottom line is EVERYONE is competing for those readers and advertising dollars at the expense of good journalism. Like it or not the IDAHO STATESMAN is the prime news source in all of Idaho. The Associated Press, TV stations, radio stations, and even the GUARDIAN all depend upon the Statesman as a news source.
Unfortunately the growth and “boom” in Southwest Idaho create the ideal climate for corporate news peddlers–readers and advertisers. The trick is arranging a marriage of the two groups and “news” is the common denominator.
All of us–readers and writers alike–have a tremendous stake in the journalistic side of an institution like the Idaho Statesman that has served us for nearly 150 years. At least newspaper journalists tend to stick around longer than their migrant cousins in television.
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