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Ear to the Ground

Quality Lacking in Online News Boom, FCC Says

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Posted on Jun 10, 2011
Flickr / Shavar Ross

The FCC has produced a massive study on the state of local Internet news in the U.S., confirming what many of us already know: A proliferation of online news outlets has not yielded a corresponding increase in the kind of in-depth, quality reporting needed to keep private interests and government in check. For example, the study found that local television stations—which are a huge provider of online community news—are more likely to focus on inexpensively produced crime stories than resource-heavy investigations into abuses of power.

“In many communities, we now face a shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting,” the study’s introduction states. “This is likely to lead to the kinds of problems that are, not surprisingly, associated with a lack of accountability—more government waste, more local corruption, less effective schools, and other serious community problems. The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism—going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy—is in some cases at risk at the local level.” —ARK

The Los Angeles Times:

In a 475-page report released Thursday titled, “The Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age,” the government regulatory agency, which has oversight over television and radio as well as certain aspects of the Internet, said there is a “shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting” that could lead to “more government waste, more local corruption,” “less effective schools” and other problems.

... Indeed, the FCC noted that The Times covers almost 100 municipalities and 10 million residents. David Lauter, Metro editor of The Times, is quoted as saying that his staff is “spread thinner and there are fewer people on any given area. ... We’re not there every day, or even every week or every month. Unfortunately, nobody else is either.”

Local TV is singled out in the report for not covering important issues enough. Although the number of hours of local news has increased over the last few years, too few stations “are investing in more reporting on critical local issues,” the report said. Furthermore, the report said that although stations may be adding newscasts, they are doing it with fewer reporters.

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By ajintx, June 11, 2011 at 9:13 am Link to this comment

The consolidation of news outlets of all media type into fewer and fewer hands, that went on during the Bush administration, is largely to blame for the state of things now.  There are quality news outlets online, as the readers here know.

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By Maani, June 10, 2011 at 10:11 pm Link to this comment

What I want to know is: why does it always take years for “studies” to show what any (most?) of us have known from the get-go?  Ultimately, this is not news - at least, not to anyone who’s been paying attention.

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By Mo, June 10, 2011 at 2:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Local news on TV or on-line is garbage.  It can be summed up in four words, traffic, weather, sports, celebrity, repeated for an hour.  I’ve tried to watch it.  The reporters and anchors get younger and dumber every year – and they don’t care, they want to be celebrities themselves.  And the LA Times, geezus, why doesn’t Tribune just sell off or close down that lousy paper – take it out of its misery once and for all.  The on-line version is even worse, looks like someone took a boxful of articles, clippings, advertisements, pictures and drawings and just dumped it on a table – there entertainment for everyone!

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By FRTothus, June 10, 2011 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment

“There is no such thing in America as an independent press, unless it is in the country towns.
You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to writes (sic) his honest opinions, and if you did you know beforehand that it would never appear in print.
I am paid one hundred and fifty dollars a week for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with—others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things—and any of you who would be so foolish as to write his honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job.
The business of the New York journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell his race and his country for his daily bread.
You know this and I know it, and what folly is this to be toasting an “Independent Press.”
We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping-jacks; they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”
(John Swinton, former Chief of Staff of New York Times, 1953)

“The owners of the Washington Post long ago acknowledged that the Post is the government’s voice to the people. In 1981, Katherine Graham, who owns the Post and Newsweek announced that her editors would “cooperate with the national security interests.” National security in this context means “CIA.”“
(John Stockwell, former CIA official and author)

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