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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Newspaper Union's Editor: Wussies Fill Newsrooms

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Andy Zipser is the editor of The Guild Reporter, the newspaper for the nation's union that represents newspaper employees, and he's out with a lengthy critique that says too many reporters are writing bland stories to avoid miring themselves in controversy. "Reporters are supposed to be hard-eyed, skeptical, even cynical, but those qualities turn out to be armor against facts, theories or ideas that step outside conventional wisdom,'' he says.

And, Zipser says, the journalism business as a whole may not believe in a freewheeling, free press. He's trying to shake up the status quo. He wonders if newspaper owners and top editors really believe in free speech -- noting that a wire service writer was canned for calling conservative columnist (if that's the right word for what she does) Ann Coulter a liar. "There is, in this business, a great deal of lip service given to the role of a free press and of the central importance of democratic discourse. But what's really happening is that too many embattled journalists have turned away from such discourse while rationalizing their self-protective reflex as a higher form of professionalism." His entire column is called "Looking Away When the Truth Overwhelms Us" and can be read by CLICKING HERE.

I love what he says, though he is a good bit more to the left than I, a former Newspaper Guild member from Akron and Cleveland. I think he's saying that newspaper journalism needs to get back to its strident, argumentative, combative roots, and scrap the notion that it is an objective voice on all topics and issues. In other words, journalists ought to be voices out there raising cane from definite points of view. He favors a progressive view. But I also think he's saying that if a zoning deal stinks do something to communicate that it stinks -- find out what is central and report it.

"No amount of blue-ribbon panels or foundation-funded research proposals or codes of ethics can resurrect journalism that's grounded in so vapid a concept of 'objectivity' and 'truth.' And no press corps dominated by such facile reasoning and shallow appreciation of human complexity is ever going to understand the truly large issues of the day. No surprise then than today's journalism increasingly lacks humane values or a fearless willingness to grapple with truly scary ideas and developments, taking solace instead in an increasingly rarefied concept of journalistic purity."


  1. Ok, Bill, question time:

    Does the docile, unobtrusive reporting Zipser decries provide an opportunity for bloggers as locally focused journalists?

    If so, isn't ironic that certain programs funded by the Knight Foundation seek to strengthen exactly those organizations?

    You've been on both sides, what do you think??

  2. I think, hmmmm, long pause .....

    Blogging, or the Intenet, is far superior to reporting in the old mode because one can write what one wants to write, then one can link to the source documents or material.

    A reader can check out the report,and weigh what it is based upon, and say yeech or yep. This is a huge amount of empowerment for readers. It was non-existent in the 70s and 80s.

    All of a sudden, we are back to villages in a way. For example, you and I can link directly to Congressional hearings, or British Parliament hearings, or even the Japanese Diet. Or we can find local zoning board minutes and read, write and display what happened. Not possible a few years ago.

    The newspapers still haven't figured this out.

    I think Knight is on to something, but I'm not quite sure what. In my opinion, the media companies hope to control the dialogue, the conversation as before. But technology has stripped them of that, and they haven't figured out what their role is -- if there is one. So, yes, there is a huge opening for bloggers. I'm absolutely convinced of that. Redhorse, you are now just as authoritative as the Beacon to your NEO readers. Congrats.