In our small and beautiful city, what passes for professionally-produced news is poorly written, poorly reasoned, and fawning of authority. That’s been true for years in Whitewater, much to the delight of local officials, who’d prefer a good headline at the Gazette, Daily Union, Register (or even the Banner) to actually doing a good job.
More accurately: for the lazy, middling, or superficial a good headline is proof of a good job.
Over at Urban Milwaukee, Bruce Murphy writes about how Gannett is likely to gut the Journal Sentinel:
Not many editors — in the traditional sense — are used. Writers for a particular beat may make story decisions (within Gannett guidelines) and a “writing coach” or “content coach” may edit stories by various reporters. In an attempt to appeal to younger readers, newspapers may have a “beverage reporter” (covering beer and the bar scene) and fashion reporter, while the state capitol desk might get just one reporter.
To get a sense of how much the Journal Sentinel’s staff might be cut, I compared its current editorial staff (editors, writers, photo, design and online people) of 117 people with Gannett papers in two mid-sized cities. The Louisville Courier Journal, in a metro area of 1.3 million, has just 63 total staff covering these same functions. The Indianapolis Star, in a metro area of 1.76 million people, has 89 staff covering these functions. Given Milwaukee’s metro population of 1.55 million, you’d expect the staffing to fall somewhere between the other two cities, meaning the Journal Sentinel loses in the neighborhood of 35-40 staff….
Odds are the people let go will be the most veteran, highest-paid staff, the ones most knowledgable about the community they are covering….
Enterprise reporting? The Journal Sentinel has 13 staff on its watchdog team. “That’s going to be a luxury,” Hopkins says. “In 33 years, USA Today has never won a Pulitzer.” The Indy Star lists just one investigative reporter (and a list of “watchdog” reporters who are clearly just beat reporters). The Louisville paper lists two, but one sounds like a beat reporter.
That’s a bad situation for Milwaukee’s residents, but it’s one with which we’ve had to live in Whitewater for years. The supposed news sites that I listed in the first paragraph don’t speak truth to power – they cower before power, writing obligingly, servilely, fawningly.
And yet – and yet – those officials who dream of a world without inquiry, scrutiny, and analysis dream a dark dream in vain. They neither deserve nor will have the world for which they so selfishly yearn.
We are a better and more creative people than that; we are a principled and inquisitive society.
Tomorrow: Methods, Standards, and Goals.