Media observers as well as its insiders have been warning repeatedly but largely in the abstract of the civic harm that will follow as traditional newspapers shrivel and in some cases disappear. A much-needed concrete example is laid out superbly at the Columbia Journalism Review’s The Observatory on news from the environmental beat.
Russ Juskalian writes an eye-opening ode to the few reporters covering the trial of W. R. Grace Co. for what federal prosecutors called a criminal failure to warn the public of dangers from a mine whose ore is contaminated by asbestors fibers. The Seattle PI’s reporter on the beat has had, since the paper folded its paper operation and went digital, to find other on line outlets. In Montana, the Missoulian newspaper has struggled mightily and heroically, in cooperation with university journalism students, to follow the trials’s issues. So it says here. The result is a razor-sharp exposure why it is critically important to find some new way to restore and maintain the payroll for what had been an army of tens of thousands of reporters nationwide with their eyes on how local affairs are managed, and mismanaged. As one source tells Juskalian, “So many stories, so little time – and money.”
As for the problem with newspapering’s failed business model, CJR also has a cover package this week analyzing the many ideas floating around to reestablish a way for big companies with lots of reporters to make a real profit on chasing the news.