Sunday, August 24, 2014

If A Reporter Falls In The Forest ...



The painful decline in the newspaper industry nationwide continues unabated.   Once again it hits close to home.  The Daily Hampshire Gazette has parted ways with Bob Dunn, yet another front-line reporter from the ranks of an already decimated stable.



And nowhere is that more apparent than in Amherst, home of the state's education flagship -- and city unto itself -- UMass/Amherst:  25 years ago the Daily Hampshire Gazette/Amherst Bulletin news operation employed 13 full-time benefited employees (10 Bulletin, 1 Gazette, 1 shared) and another 15-20 Bulletin part-timers. 

Now the Gazette/Bulletin operation consists of only two full time benefited employees:  reporter Scott Merzbach and editor Debra Scherban. 

And that simply reflects national trends, although probably a lot worse, set in motion by a rise of the Internet over the past ten years: Classified advertising down 74% (thanks to Craigslist), overall print advertising down 61%, weekday circulation down 47%.

Simply put, the newspaper industry is drowning in red ink.

Plunging profits mean cuts in overhead.  Newsroom staffing has dwindled from 54,700 journos in 2002 to 38,000 in 2012, a drop of 31%. And it's only going to get worse.

If you really think Facebook works as a news provider then simply look what happened last week.  The riotous events in Ferguson, Missouri dominated Twitter and cable news, while Facebook was awash in the "Ice Bucket Challenge."

The loss of this vanishing breed -- a good reporter -- should be a wake up call.  You know, like a bucket of ice water dumped on your head!

27 comments:

Dr. Ed said...

I can think of a dozen hard-hitting UMass scandal/stories that no one (not even you, Larry) will touch -- and more than anything else, that's why this is happening.

We tried to cover two of them with the Minuteman and look how that turned out...

I'm told that Pravda was good for stuffing wet boots...

Anonymous said...

An entirely different model may be needed, with well-trained, professional journalists protected from the CoI of the advertising marketplace.

Possibly funded by charitable/non-profit foundations in the public-interest, like theWikimedia Foundation, and certainly more like the CSMonitor than Pravda.

The corruption in this valley runs a lot deeper than the river which carved it, and should be exposed.
Larry's blog is admirable, but it's not up to the task....

Larry Kelley said...

One too many dots.

Anonymous said...

Who the hell gets their news from Facebook? Do they even have news on FB?

Larry Kelley said...

A majority of Americans now get their news on the web and much of that is via links posted to Facebook.

Dr. Ed said...

You send me the pictures, I'll send you the war."

Maybe he said it, maybe he didn't, but a lot of quite respectable newspapers started out as wrappers for opinion pages. In order to get people to read your opinions, you have to get your paper into their hands so you print stuff that is valuable to them.

We knew that with the Minuteman -- that's why we printed the campus map and the university salaries (in descending order) and other things that people would want to see (remember that this was before smartphones).

CNS -- Christian News Service -- is an interesting model. It is (or initially was) being run largely on donations, the donors openly stating that they wish to see news covered from a Christian perspective.

They've been successful because they are not ideological -- no more than Larry is covering drunken UMass students, which is why he has been successful as well.

Larry Kelley said...

Actually five of my top ten stories of all time have nothing to do with "drunken UMass students."

And my numbers have stayed strong all summer long with nary a drunk student in sight.

Anonymous said...

With the Amherst school system alone you'd never need a drunk story. They are off their rocker enough for a dozen stories and their dysfunction has probably been most of what you write about and what people visit here to read about.

Anonymous said...

Interesting history lesson is that unknown to most people the sad part is that the newspaper industry was very proactive many years ago related to the internet. Most set up web portals long before the web became a hit. And that was the problem, they invested in the infrastructure far too soon and as a result, stopped putting resources into it and actually missed the boat by the time the web became popular.

Anonymous said...

Maria G is a UMass alum -- and her base of support is at UMass -- although not necessarily within the School of Education, which I think says something...

Anonymous said...

I think I know what you you're trying to get at 6:52 PM ...

if you can't do, teach; and if you can't teach, teach education.

Anonymous said...

Some people's perception of the school system being dysfunctional is, I believe, based almost solely in a few events, and a small handful of people's dissemination of photos and shoddy reports of events in print and online, (coupled with the shenanigans of a small band of professional school critics,) reports which are marred by a desire to get in on the story as soon as possible, fair and balanced and correct information and even proper grammar be damned.

Larry Kelley said...

And you fit all that into one l-o-n-g sentence.

Brevity be damned.

On permanent vacation in la-la land said...

"...based almost solely in a few events..."


LOL!


Now that made me laugh.


-Squeaky Squeaks



p.s. Wow.

Anonymous said...

Honestly not surprised. Amazed it's taken the G so long to let them go. The pensions alone must be killing their bottom line.

Who needs these "reporters" anyway? they often steal stuff from you, Larry. Hardly reporting, eh?

Anonymous said...

Brevity be damned.

I don't need to worry about my grammar, I'm just one of "the people", speaking "truth to power".

Anonymous said...

Someday a REAL rain is going to come and wash ALL the scum off the sidewalks

Anonymous said...


Dear all

The Department of Environmental Protection arrived on campus today for an unannounced inspection. They will likely want to do some inspections in laboratories to determine whether we are compliant with hazardous waste regulations which can carry significant fines for violations.

Could you please have everyone check satellite accumulation areas (hazardous waste pick up locations) and make sure everything is neat and tidy and clean. Please fill in your weekly checklist at least for today that the SAA has been checked.

Many thanks and we will keep you posted.
Chris

Christine Rogers, PhD
Assistant Director, Academic Safety & Environmental Health
Environmental Health & Safety, Draper Hall
University of Massachusetts Amherst
car@ehs.umass.edu
413-545-5112
- -and-
Research Assistant Professor
Environmental Health Sciences
School of Public Health & Health Sciences

Larry Kelley said...

Somebody remind me to put in a public documents request with Chris next week for any citations issued by DEP.

Anonymous said...

Some people's perception of the school system being dysfunctional is, I believe, based almost solely in a few events, and a small handful of people's dissemination of photos and shoddy reports of events in print and online, (coupled with the shenanigans of a small band of professional school critics,) reports which are marred by a desire to get in on the story as soon as possible, fair and balanced and correct information and even proper grammar be damned.

I have a "rule of three" -- once I get to the THIRD grammatical error in the SAME sentence, I suggest the student consider translating it into English.

Dr. Ed said...

The Department of Environmental Protection arrived on campus today for an unannounced inspection

Amazing how pictures of lead paint chips strewn across the lawn and reports of toxic liquids being dumped into storm drains that dump directly into a brook gets the attention of these folk, isn't it?

This is how Dr. Ed fights back. And there's a lot more in the pipeline -- Enjoy...

Tom McBride said...

If Dr. Ed was quoting from Citizen Kane, I don't know if he was, the quote is actually, "Dear Wheeler: you provide the prose poems. I'll provide the war."

Anonymous said...

Not understanding, Ed. You called this in?

Ralph Reed said...

Wasn't it a synopsis of Theodore Roosevelt addressing William Hearst about the Spanish-American War?

"Remember the Maine!"

Anonymous said...

It is obvious that Larry is not the least bit interested in LAND USE AND ZONING in Amherst as he did not pick up on John Fox's allegations neither in the Gazette or at last night's SB meeting. Don't tell me about transparency in government.

Dr. Ed said...

"Wasn't it a synopsis of Theodore Roosevelt addressing William Hearst about the Spanish-American War?"

Allegedly "you send me the pictures, I'll send you the war" is the telegram that Hearst sent to his employees in Havana.

Between the newly-installed electricity (which folks weren't really familiar with, the ordinance (which could be quite unstable) and coal bunkers which had a bad habit of spontaneous ignition, it's far more likel that the Maine blew up on her own rather than with Spanish "help."

Ever see a "knob & tube" light switch? It's a rotary thing with open contacts and mounted on a steel bulkhead, it wouldn't take much for it to short out -- remember that switches were on the neutral back then -- as were fuses... The coal bunker temperature readings don't indicate a fire -- as long as someone actually took them and didn't just fake the numbers. And you had Civil-War-Era sailors in charge of ordinance quite a bit different from the steel balls they used to fire. But I digress...

Dr. Ed said...

Let me clarify -- they used to fuse both the hot & neutral -- or sometimes just the neutral which created a problem when the fuse on the neutral blew -- the line would be hot all the way to the blown fuse, and if had somehow shorted to ground, a fused neutral wouldn't stop that.

Needless to say, they had a LOT of electrical fires which really isn't surprising. Future generations will likely say the same things about us -- with most everything in their homes running on low-voltage DC and room-temperature superconductors eliminating the voltage drop issue to the point where neither higher voltages nor AC are necessary -- they'll wonder why we tolerated the fire risk, electrocution risk & electromagnetic noise issues.

(Seriously -- if you could safely have 40 times the amperage, you could have an electric stove run at 6 volts. It just would be 1600 amps rather than 40 -- which today would require four copper wires each an inch thick. Now if you had something smaller & cheaper that could safely carry that load, it would make perfect sense to have your stove running at only 6 volts. Along with your LED lights, your electronics and whatnot.)