Tag Archives: Free Press

Why newspapers….?

While the spoken word can travel faster, you can’t take it home in your hand. Only the written word can be absorbed wholly at the convenience of the reader ~ Kingman Brewster Jr

The newspaper fits the reader’s program while the listener must fit the broadcaster’s program. ~ Kingman Brewster Jr.

These two quotes by Kingman Brewster, one-time President of Yale University, are so on target for National Newspaper Week that I couldn’t choose…  In both quotes focus is on the reader, the active participant in the communication chain that links source (in whatever format) with receiver (of whatever stripe.)

As for the first, some would argue that you can take the word home in your hand – assuming that you are I-phone equipped. Brewster assumes, though, that there’s more than convenience at stake, that the reason to tote, and eventually to read, the paper is that “only the written word can be absorbed wholly at the convenience of the reader.”  Tuning in or clicking on  are not synonymous with reading and reflecting on the written word.

To this I would add that newspapers give the reader credit for the capacity to think critically.  Though newspaper editors and print journalists are not hesitant to speak their own minds, they respect the fact that the reader has the wits to think about what they are reading. Editors even encourage readers to check the facts, to re-read an article, to reflect and respond.

In the “information age” everyone aspires to be the sender/source of information that’s “hot” or intended to persuade more than inform.  Newspapers — and serious readers — are challenged to focus on the process of gathering and sharing news and opinion.  Readers need to recognize and value the labor involved in truth-finding, in gathering and parsing diverse opinions, in communicating complex ideas to a diverse readership.  Readers need to recognize and value the unique “personality” that characterizes the publication itself.

Newspaper folks are not judged by their charming good looks, their wardrobe, their glib tongue or their star quality.  They earn their journalistic stripes by delving beneath the surface.  They invest the time to check the facts, to track down the dissenting opinion, to respect the fact that We the People make decisions based on the words they craft and the cartoons they draw. Newspapers pride themselves on the fact that the news is edited by rational, if opinionated, individuals.  Their responsibility is to inform an electorate that, if all goes well, retains the power to decide the fate of the democracy envisioned by those who crafted the First Amendment and assigned it to its prominent position in the Bill of Rights.

Above all, as the nation falls victim to weaponized information, newspapers have both the burden and the power to create a climate in which words matter and truth triumphs. The free press we honor during National Newspaper Week is the voice and the prevailing hope of a free nation.

National Newspaper Week – October 1-7, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

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PointerGate points to the imperative of oversight

In another life I was a stooge on the Minnesota News Council. At some point I, as a member in good standing, read in the press that the MNC was to be no more – no explanation, a simple affirmation that the staff person had acquired a safe position at the University of St. Thomas. Because I was too otherwise engaged to explore the roots of a decision I accepted as a done deal, closed that file, and gave complicit assent to a decision I knew was wrong.

Bottom line: Minnesota News Council, thou art needed at this hour.

Though there are many, the efficient cause of my concern is PointerGate, the most ridiculous travesty of press neglect unfolding in recent journalistic days.

Thanks to The UpTake, a community resource of inestimable value that somehow escapes public acclamation, I just viewed a streamed account of the recent discussion of the PointerGate debacle sponsored by the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. ((http://theuptake.org/live-video-post/journalists-discuss-pointergate/)) The conversation offers clear insights that transcend the episode that has been blown far out of proportion by the press and by social media; the video is well worth a view.

The discussion, mostly among journalists, is enlightening. The questions raised by the audience are illustrative of the questions on the minds of many. There are not so many answers as questions. Still, listening/viewing the open discussion helps me to capitalize on an opportunity to learn and to understand the thinking of the individuals who were and are involved in an ongoing explication of the tempest in a teapot that was PointerGate.

The complexity of the issue expands with discussion – racism, gang-bating, the role of cops, the authority of the mayor, the objectivity of the press, the impact of the press on public attitudes….

On the one hand, there is the PointerGate issue – dead in the water as far as I am concerned. What remains is a question about the role of the press, the way in which the public, not only the press, has a role in determining the actions of the media. It matters.

From my perspective, PointerGate – and a host of press/media related issues – argue for resurrection of a Minnesota News Council that is restructured, given the authority and staff capable to meet the challenges of a fiercely competitive digital market of ideas. This is not the first, just the most obvious, need for the MNC.

I regret to this day that I gave silent consent so easily to a decision I knew was not in the interests of the people.

It’s National Newspaper Week — Read On!

Half of the American people never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President  One hopes it is the same half. Gore Vidal

 If you’re a tweeter, texter, app-addicted news junkie you may be blissfully unaware that this very week, October 5-11, 2014, is the 74th Annual National Newspaper Week.   Moreover Tuesday, October 7, is the first ever National News Engagement Day.

 Clearly the two commemorations relate and promote a common message. Still, they differ in focus. National Newspaper Week celebrates the nation’s democratic tradition of a free press that doesn’t just report the news but that holds both the nation’s leaders and the newspaper’s readers accountable for a robust democracy. The day of engagement, sponsored by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, focuses on promoting Americans’ engagement with the news as a national priority.

So where do newspapers fit in and why do we need a week, or even a day, to stem the rising tide of disengagement.   Robert Williams, President of the National Newspaper Association, observes that “newspapers sound the alarm with swift, accurate and thorough coverage when sensitive issues arise. We provide not just facts but clearly labeled editorials to help everyone weigh matters with sufficient information. We pay attention. We laugh. We cry. We hurt. We rejoice. We care. We share the pain and shed tears along with our readers. That is what well-run newspapers do.”

To be sure legacy newspapers – the ones that used to roll off the presses – are in distress.   Competition from formats that require less cost to produce and less time to “consume”, coupled with dramatic loss of advertising income have led to massive layoffs of investigative reporters, shifts in ownership, and plummeting reader confidence. The most recent Pew Research Center biennial news consumption survey identified 29% of young adults as “newsless”…..which ironically does rhyme with “clueless”.

What’s more, a recent Gallup poll reveals that Americans’ confidence in news media is at a record low. Far more troubling is a study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. More troubling by far, the same study found that more than one-third of Americans are opposed to freedom of the press when it comes to stories concerning national security.

One appropriate way to observe Newspaper Week is to reflect on the role and tradition of this nation’s free press. What immediately comes to mind is the diversity. Just as the communities they reflect and inform are unique, each newspaper has its own special character, each news person reflects his or her own take on the task.

Consider the unique role of rural press: A recent study of rural Oklahomans 42.2% of respondents turned to their local newspaper as their primary source of information. Researchers concluded that “even in this age of endless Facebook feeds and dizzying arrays of other social media options, the good ol’ newspaper still has a beloved place in many rural residents’ hearts.”   One might suggest that the newspaper retains a beloved place in rural residents’ minds, as well — recent political decisions by Minnesota’s rural voters were no doubt influenced by the editorial positions of this state’s strong rural press.

Community presses also play a unique role as community builders, helping to define a community and carve out a market in mobile world in which geography is not the determinant of community. Keith Anderson, director of news at ECM Publishers in Coon Rapids, MN, looks at community newspapers with a his own lens: “Community journalism isn’t about paper and ink or websites and unique visitors….Community journalism is a living, breathing, shared connection of people that propels us to take chances, to realize that life is not always safe, clean and tidy, but that, through our connection, there is plenty to celebrate and adventures to explore.”

In the digital age we tend to forget the person who hatched the idea, ferreted out the facts, selected the words to tell the story – and fit the available column space. American Newspaper Association President Williams gives pause for thought when he observes that “newspapering is a job in the same sense that being a father or mother is a ‘job.’ Parents are responsible for the well-being of their family. Good newspapers take on that role with the communities we serve.”

Finally, lest you think that National Newspaper Week and National News Engagement Day are pedantic, even quaint, occasions of note, check out the lighter touch offered by the Poynter Institute: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/272995/happy-newspaper-week-pssst-its-not-just-about-newspapers/

The fun facts and stories there will remind you just how human – and humorous – the newspaper industry is.

 

 

 

The FCC is Having a Public Hearing in MN Thursday Evening

Once again The UpTake steps to the plate!  The UpTake crew, mostly volunteers, will be on hand Thursday evening when media moguls, access advocates, journalists, librarians, entrepreneurs, and information mavens of every stripe —  just about anybody who has dipped a toe into the digital world – will gather for a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) public hearing on the future of the Internet.  The hearing is Thursday, August 19, 6:00 p.m. in the South High School Auditorium, 3131 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis.

What’s well publicized are the details of the unique hearing  featuring FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn along with locals including i Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and other speakers TBA.  Not so well publicized is the fact that The UpTake will be on site.  TheUpTake will provide live broadcast and will also video the entire event. You can catch the hearing in real time or at your leisure – when the kids go to bed or you get off work.

The hearing is hosted by three national organizations, i.e. Free Press, Main Street Project, and the Center for Media Justice. Through their Media Action Grassroots Project (MAG-net). These are among the national organizations that have lobbied long and hard on a host of pressing issues, most notably network neutrality and broadband access.  The premise of the TC’s hearing is that the big guys have had their say and that the Commission needs to hear from the rest of us.  The fact that Minnesota’s junior Senator has become the poster child for these progressive groups may have influenced the designation of Minneapolis as the one and only Greater-US hearing.

By way of introduction, the Uptake is currently providing great background material, including an overview of the hearing, a talk presented earlier this summer by Commissioner Copps, and an interview with Senator Al Franken, a vocal advocate for network neutrality and access.  You’ll find them all on the Uptake website.