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We have a class called “Reporting on Decisions” where we have listened to an array of journalists — experts in their field — telling us how bad coverage in their respective fields is and has been in mainstream media almost forever. KC Cole deplored coverage of George Bush’s decisions to put politics above science, Bill Celis told us how deficient coverage was of a major education reform landmark in Texas, and Sasha Anawalt showed us how the L.A. Times missed the boat on the MOCA meltdown.
That was just the beginning. Then we then heard from our own colleages, specialized students who are becoming experts in their fields and who analyzed media coverage of an important decision. The result has been eye openning, although not altogether unexpected. Media is for the most part shallow and deficient in its reporting: it fails to place important decisions in context and fails to provide adequate explanations.

For a long time I’ve been feeling sad about the demise of newspapers as we know them, but the more I see these presentations, and the more I think about it, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing after all.


OK, I know I vacillate between anger and depression when it comes to the general state of news media, but that doesn’t mean I have any tolerance for my friends who still complain about it. Sorry folks, I have no patience for the reporter who wants to go cover Obama when he rolls into L.A., only to be told by editors that’s what wire services are for. And the guy who wants to do an in-depth story about the history of Taco Trucks in California but gets told by editors to go cover a robbery instead? Forget about it, buddy. These are tough times that have no patience for the faint of heart. (Boy, I sure hope my friends don’t visit my blog).

But I can leave my grumpiness behind when I see a good piece of news, like the one I discovered today just as I was resigning myself to only write about grumpiness.

Benjamin Cardin, an elightened senator from Maryland, introduced on Tuesday the “Newspaper Revitalization Act,” a bill that would allow newspapers to restructure as non-profits and potentially give them a second chance at life. The bill still needs to get co-sponsors and naturally, any takers. But hey, the fact that the plight of newspapers has reached such august heights says something about who’s paying attention. That makes me feel good, at least for this week.

A couple of weeks ago, Newsosaur predicted either MediaNews or Morris Publishing would be the next ones to declare bankruptcy. Well, a few days ago, another newspaper company did annunce Chapter 11, but it was Philadelphia Newspapers, owner of the Philadelphia Enquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. According to the New York Times, the company had not been complying with its debt agreements for about eight months, and suspended payment on debt in the Fall.

The announcement, coupled with the Fed’s chief dire prediction about the economy, doesn’t bode well for the future of debt-laden newspapers.

Wendy Carrillo, an astute woman in the masters of specialized journalism program, wisely pointed out how the nature of one of our recent cyber-discussions was focusing now not on what’s wrong with the newsmedia, but how to fix it.

Although I initially dismissed her comments, I must confess I’ve had a change of heart. Maybe it was Walter Isaacson’s piece in Time,  or maybe is a collective sign of desperation as we see the water continues to rise and now it’s up our chins. In any case, the lively debate about Isaacson’s proposal and other solutions is alive and well in the internet. Ken Doctor has a very good post about it, and so does Neusosaur. If we keep churning out ideas, something’s bound to become butter.

Immigrants tried to give the United States a taste of what the country would be like without them, and now newspapers may follow suit.

I stumbled onto this intriguing post by  TJ Sullivan,who’s pushing for newspapers to stop uploading their contents unto the web for one whole week so the public gets a taste of what the world would be like without them.

Immigrants couldn’t really pull it off, but they made a valiant effort. It will be interesting to see this idea take off.

Peter Drucker, considered by some the creator and inventor of modern management, described in a book published in 1974 how the Japanese process of decision making is based on first defining what the problem is. Maybe top newspaper managers should get a copy.

Last week, a group of top executives launched “The Newspaper Project,” a campaign to promote the value of newspapers and share tips on how to survive in tough times. The project includes an ad blitz to set the record straight about the importance of their print product.

But just like media guru Ken Doctor notes in his blog, I wonder if these execs aren’t barking at the wrong tree. It’s not that readers don’t value newspapers, it’s that they can get the information they provide for free so they don’t have to bother with a subscription. People still value news, but the forms of delivery have changed so dramatically that execs are still running from cover. And judging by the grumpy postings of Alexandre Gamela, they still don’t get it.

Mmmmm. Our esteemed director and professor are against one, but maybe, just maybe, that’s what newspapers need. Not so their owners can continue making obsene amounts of profit, but to rescue important community institutions (the L.A. Times comes to mind). A government bailout and a restructuring of ownership could relieve the debt burden many newspapers are carrying and give control to community members who value their role in the democratic process and not just as cash cows.

Let’s be real: there’s no way indebted newspaper chains (McClatchy, Media News, Tribune) can keep up with the exorbitant payments their huge debt demands of them. It’s as if a waiter had purchased a million dollar home (something he couldn’t afford to begin with) that later lost half its value in the real estate crash.

McClatchy stock closed at 66 cents Friday, a 13 percent decline from the previous day. You all know about LA Times, and Media News and Gannett have both implemented one-week furloughs for all their employees. Basically, they want to stop the bleeding with a band-aid…