Saturday, December 10, 2005

The LA Times, the Baltimore Sun and the Tribune Company

I do not normally pay much attention to the daily life of Barbara Streisand, but I was very interested to learn that she has cancelled her Los Angeles Times subscription after the paper fired columnist Robert Scheer. While the article I read in my local paper, the Baltimore Sun, suggested that this merely had to do with the loss of a "liberal columnist," I believe there is much more to this story. Indeed, the Baltimore Sun was bought by the Tribune Co. as part of the purchase of Times-Mirror Company whose flagship paper is the Los Angeles Times. At the time many commentators pointed out that the LA Times was a much more prestigious and important paper journalistically than the Chicago Tribune, which had been the flagship of the Tribune Company up until that point. This suggestion that the guppie was swallowing the whale of course ignored the business end of the newspaper business. The Tribune had been turning out much higher profits, allowing the paper`s owners to be the gobble up the Los Angeles Times despite the Tribune´s small standing within the study and field of journalism.

Since this purchase, I have seen the Tribune Company increasingly use syndicated columnists and reporters from its nationwide company and has even reformatted the Baltimore Sun so that it appears more like the most generic news paper in the Americas, the USA Today. The consolidation of ownership of the Baltimore Sun into larger and larger conglomerates was starting to homogenize its content. This process, of course, comes at the expense of Baltimore´s voice, individuality, and investigative reporting that made The Sun an exciting part of my life growing up in Baltimore. Even when I lived inside the Washington Beltway as a student at the University of Maryland, I usually preferred the Sun over the Washington Post because of its quality reporting and distinct Baltimore perspective.

The firing of Scheer, whom Streisand labels an independent voice "of dissent and groundbreaking expositional content," was part of this same process of homogenization that logically follows from the consolidation of for-profit media. While many people may not care what Barbara Streisand thinks, this process has had a great negative effect on US American media. One wonders, for example, what the effect of this lack of diversity in media ownership had on the run-up to the war in Iraq. While plenty of evidence existed that suggested that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction nor any ties to Al Qaeda, few media outlets questioned to audacious statements coming out of the whitehouse preparing this country for war. The American media, including the Tribune Company, surely shares some responsibility for the more than 100,000 Iraqis and 2,000 Americans whose lives have been lost in an Iraq without a clear purpose or plan.

Though occasional bright spots, such as the recent multi-part series on the lives of homeless students at Baltimore City Public Schools, have kept me reading the Sun since I moved back to Baltimore, I am considering switching my news source. Even if it isn´t the hometown perspective I can identify with, I want to get my information from sources I trust (which is increasingly not the case with the Tribune Company). Unfortunately, other major media outlets that used to feature quality reporting have lost my trust in different, if not wholly disimilar ways. I am, of course, referring to the Judith Miller´s reporting on Weapons of Mass Destruction for the New York Times and Bob Woodward´s relationship to the "Plamegate" affair while reporting for the Washington Post.

Indeed, I find myself increasingly using the BBC´s website for news while considering a subscription to the Financial Times of London, The Guardian of London, or La Jornada of Mexico City. One even wonders how much longer American news sources can be profitable while continuing to lose credibility and quality in their reporting.

4 comments :

Gothamimage said...

Simon
The NY Times still has the brilliant and perceptive David Brooks.

Brooks speaks tough truths to power, every week.

-GI

Gothamimage said...

Not sure how I ended up here. Unfortunately, don't know enough about Haiti or your topics. Just surfing from link to link.

Anonymous said...

i like you

Blogenfreude said...

We are the refugees of
Typepad ...
Can we live in your blog for awhile?