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Breaking the News: Part I

Original post made on Jan 2, 2008

Many observers are sounding an alarm about the cost to our society of the diminishing number of diverse voices and declining quality of journalism. Nowhere is that trend more pronounced than in the Bay Area.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 28, 2007, 10:08 AM

Comments (12)

Posted by Jon Wiener, a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2008 at 11:01 am

I hope you guys get the irony in running an op-ed from an EPC-owned paper in Marin County decrying media consolidation in the Bay Area.

Posted by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor
on Jan 2, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Don Frances is a registered user.

As you should know, EPC is the last independently owned newspaper chain in the Bay Area. We are six small-to-medium weeklies -- not part of MediaNews, Hearst, or some other conglomerate.

Would you have preferred we didn't run it?

Posted by joe segura, a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2008 at 6:25 pm

Nice article on a critically serious issue.
You write about the problem of only one reporter writing about a breaking story, instead of several writers from a variety of news organizations. The problem is compounded when one editorial opposing or supporting an issue/candidate is used by a politico alleging widespread views of various publications when it only belongs to one of Dean Singleton clusters "news" papers.

Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 2, 2008 at 11:02 pm

The key to the trend is in the paragraph where John Bowman criticizes the MediaNews editorial standards. How is it that MediaNews is putting out a crappy product, in Chapman's opinion, but gaining market share doing so? Has the readership that cares about quality news migrated to other sources, perhaps non-traditional sources on the Internet? Have declining literacy and growing anti-intellectualism led to a decline in the number of readers who care about quality journalism? Is it possible that there never was as much interest in quality news as journalists think there was?

Understanding the readers, and delivering what they want is the key, not looking to the government for protection from competition. The cure of giving politicians the power to decide who gets to own the newspapers is worse than the disease. It tromps all over the First Amendment.

Posted by Jon Wiener, a resident of another community
on Jan 3, 2008 at 12:21 pm


I was just saying that it is ironic. I'm not clear, though, on the point at which EPC becomes a conglomerate. Both the Voice and the Sun used to be truly independent before EPC bought them.

I would have preferred that the Voice had written it instead, in a way that discussed the real consequences for Mountain View. It might lead to an answer to the question Mike seems to be implying: Is quality journalism worth paying for? With advertising continuing to migrate on-line, I think we either need to do a better job of convincing people that it is, or make a serious committed to publicly-funded news organizations.

Posted by Jon Wiener, a resident of another community
on Jan 3, 2008 at 12:45 pm

*serious commitment*

Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 3, 2008 at 12:50 pm

I wouldn't put it that way. For some people, quality journalism is definitely worth paying for. My point is that, now that we have the Internet, there may not be enough readers who want quality journalism and want it delivered in the form of a traditional daily newspaper to sustain the traditional daily newspaper business.

I would also assert that "Publicly-funded" is equivalent to "politically-controlled". IRather than having to compete with media conglomerates that you feel own too many outlets and have poor journalistic standards, you will be competing with newspapers sponsored by taxpayer money with politicians acting as the editors. That's a scary place to go for a country that is supposed to have freedom of the press.

Posted by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor
on Jan 5, 2008 at 6:27 pm

Don Frances is a registered user.

Jon: I guess I see what you mean by ironic. Of course, small community weeklies like ours usually don't work on such stories. Given that, it seems like an even deeper irony that we're the last newspaper outlet around in a position to even print something about it!

As for whether we're a conglomerate, I don't know the exact definition of that word in this sense. I think of a "conglomerate" as a mega-corporation like MediaNews, which we obviously aren't.

Mike: Intuitively, I share your worry about publicly funded (and therefore government-contolled, maybe), media. On the other hand, PBS, led by Bill Moyers, is seriously a last bastion of decent, quality journalism on television -- there is simply no one else doing what he and Frontline, et. al., do. (The closest thing might be "60 Minues.") I for one am glad we're dedicating that tiny sliver of tax money to them. So I'm not sure what that says about the merits (or hazards) of publicly funded media.

Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 6, 2008 at 10:13 pm

Frontline is an interesting example to bring up. I'm not sure they are tax funded at all. On their webpage it says that their main sources of funding are PBS viewers, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Park Foundation.

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2008 at 4:21 pm

"Publicly funded" is highly misleading. More accurate to call PBS "publicly subsidized". "Government controlled"-- even with the caveat you tossed in-- is an unreasonable and unfair comment to make without backup.

Posted by Daniel DeBolt, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 8, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Daniel DeBolt is a registered user.

It's worth pointing out that both the BBC and Al Jazeera, top news outlets for the rest of the world, are funded by national governments while enjoying editorial freedom.

Posted by Jon Wiener, a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2008 at 9:33 am


Glad you brought up Al Jazeera. I didn't want to be the one accused of being anti-American.

Tell your boss that he has better things to do on his vacation other than post on Time Square.


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