Where Has All the Real News Gone?

I’ve always loved my local paper, the Allentown Morning Call. After all, where else am I going to see who has died that I might know, find a good Pennsylvania Dutch recipe I’ve been wondering about, read about the guy who was all drugged up and threw a can of baked beans at a car, and see what’s opening and closing in my hometown? But for the first time ever, when I got the bill I wondered if I should really pay for a paper newspaper to come to my house.

I’m lucky if I get to sit down and read it front-to-back once a week. Now, “front-to-back” isn’t what it used to be. We are talking maybe 30 pages. I’ve already seen most of the national headlines on the Huffington Post, so I’m usually just skimming for the local stuff. And I do use the paper to start fires in the winter and to light the grill (in my grill chimney) in the summer, so it is useful….

But as my local newspaper has gotten thinner and I’ve taken to using the Internet for the headlines (or Twitter for breaking news—it’s unparalleled), I’ve noticed something really, truly disturbing: So much of what passes for news these days is from sketchy sources, regurgitated and recycled, and just plain old. While Facebook is the worst (I think Nelson Mandela has died a few times already, and so many shared stories are from weird sources or are years old), even the major news portals seem to be skimming the surface, recycling and reusing, and overly relying on loud-mouthed gripers to define what is “news.” I just saw something in the news that said those loud-mouthed gripers are the highest-paid people in news, other than the “titans” who own the news (although I wouldn’t want to be any of them!). But who knows, maybe that story was just a hoax or wrong. Does anyone have a fact-checking department anymore?

Now, this loud-mouthed (unpaid) griper (me) is not complaining about change blah, blah, blah. I’m all for change and am managing my own industry transformation as we speak (paid). However, I am worried about our democracy and literacy—not because of the potential for fascism or communism, but because of our own ignorance. The GREAT thing about the Internet has been that it’s given EVERYONE a voice in the news, whether they are in the middle of a riot or a war or just sitting on their couch in a free country watching a stupid TV show. That’s amazing! The bad thing about the Internet is that every kind of information is free, so news organizations have a harder time paying for good, deep investigative reporting.

I’ve noticed that even the major news outlets often get things “wrong.” They can easily become mouthpieces for all sorts of agendas rather than beacons of truth because, after all, there aren’t enough time, money, and people to get the truth. And the TRUTH is most people won’t pay for the truth! Unless it’s highly entertaining, makes one feel very important and superior to others, or involves very adorable and goofy animals or children.

I was going to make this blog a quiz and ask your opinion about whether I should renew my subscription or not. But I think I’ve decided to renew just on principle…although even I was shocked when I saw the price: $167.76 for SIX MONTHS!!!!!

(Cue the old lady voice.) I remember when it was $52 for a whole year! But I’m getting old. Not old enough to believe that news back in the day was any better or more truthful. But old enough to believe we should be concerned if we don’t get better at telling the truth in the news, digging for it and spreading it and paying for it and working for it.

The real news is that each of us can make a difference with what we read and what we don’t read, what we listen to and what we don’t listen to (NPR and BBC are still the best, I think), what we share or don’t share (I’m guilty of this, too!), and—most important—how we spend our money on information. Spend it wisely, please.

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15 Responses to Where Has All the Real News Gone?

  1. Sharon Caldwell says:

    Dear Maria,

    If you want real news check out: naturalnews.com, wnd.com, infowars.com and of course the Drudge Report.

    Sharon

    P.S. naturalnews.com is probably your best bet for health & nutrition related content although all of these cover them.

  2. James Early says:

    I still get my local paper too. It is a daily: the Danbury News Times. It IS expensive! But I do like to keep up with local events and news. For national and international news I like the Christian Science Monitor: csmonitor.com

  3. Alice Green says:

    I still get the local Denver Post but mostly for the comics, for real news that I trust completely about the world we live in, I get a magazine, The Nation. Its’ funds to operate comes from our donations and subscriptions. Because they print what most big corporations and most Congresspeople don’t want to hear, they have to pay much more in postage then magazines that are fluff. If the 1% rich continue to buy up all the newspapers, we won’t have much to read except what they want us to know. When journalists lose their protection to print what they discover and are no longer given whistleblower status, we won’t even have the few good news sources we have right now.

  4. J. Cummings says:

    It is tough to find “real” news when corporations have bought the media In my opinion, there are few great journalists left. My favorite two are Bill Moyers and Paul Salopek. Bill Moyers & Company, a PBS show, offers a voice to the marginalized — which many are becoming in our economically polarized nation. Paul Salopek’s “A Tank of Gas: A World of Trouble” shows the impact that our nation has on the world by our fossil-fuel lifestyle. I think that rather than the number of pages in a newspaper, we need to find journalistic voices that speak truth to power in order to bring about justice in an increasingly divided world.

  5. Sharon says:

    Maria
    I face the same dilemma biannually as well. My husband keeps hoping I will give up the Morning Call at some point or other in frustration for what little “news” actually appears in those pages.

    I enjoy my weekly Bethlehem Press for what I call “news you can use”! And my Sunday Times is to be savored over a number of days.

    ….But the Morning Call ??? I continue to subscribe to the paper out of commitment to paper itself and my community. But, admittedly, at over $300 annually, for how long??

    Sharon

  6. Nancy says:

    I, too, read the Morning Call mainly for the local news. Much of the rest is just a pastiche of wire stories. I use the comics, the puzzle page, and the advertising inserts. The coupons pay for the subscription. It’s so sad to see what has become of a former Pulitzer-prize-winning paper. Particularly disheartening has been the decline of the op/ed pages from the days when Glen Kranzley was the editor. It now appears to be edited by a not-too-bright intern, if at all. Glen weeded out the lunatics and conspiracy theorists and published thoughtful letters; now the Call will publish any Tea Party drivel. I’m hanging on for old times’ sake, but the day Tribune Media sells the paper to the Koch brothers is the day I cancel my subscription.

  7. Nancy says:

    The Morning Call would be a much better paper if it really narrowed its focus to the Lehigh Valley, and stopped trying to cover Berks, Bucks, Montgomery, Carbon, Schuylkill, and Monroe counties. Just Lehigh and Northampton. Then they would have the money to send reporters to more local events and meetings.

  8. Joe Afonso says:

    I am in the same predicament; to cancel/continue to have the daily (Providence Jounal) delivered. But then I think of the local jobs the newspaper supports, the local news/sports, the good feeling of going to the coffe shop in the morning and having my own newspaper, and I decide it’s still worth having the paper delivered.

  9. Kathy D says:

    My husband and I have noted for a long time that journalist today don’t question anything. Of the 6 questions we were taught journalists should ask (WWWWH), they seem to have forgotten “Why.” I’ve heard “If it bleeds, it leads” for years, but we can now add, “If it’s flashy or trashy.” When did announcing the winner of some “reality” show on another network become an important news story? Where are the Edward R. Murrow’s and all of his “boys”? We can blame part of it on the 24-hour news cycle, the USAToday style pie charts, and Faux News, but much of it on the American public that wants to be told what to believe. “It’s on the internet, so it must be true.”

  10. Ima Voter says:

    We no longer take a newspaper as the content is either too local or too biased, in this area. We are also very disappointed in the national media: ABC World News, for example, just “covered” the spiraling cost of gasoline without digging into the why of it. Announcing an obvious event without reason is not reporting. Cynics that we are, we look at the advertising and note that petroleum companies pay a large part. The same goes for the increased price of natural gas, in spite of the spread of fracking – now they’re saying it’s the lack of pipelines. Hmm, wonder if there is an agenda that needs to be reported?

  11. Dear Maria,

    In Central New York where I live, the main paper is the Syracuse Post-Standard, which was run for years by Sam Newhouse with his conservative agenda. Now, it has shrunk in size dramatically and in circulation. I read its news headlines online and they do nothing to improve the quality of my life. I, too, like BBC and NPR. As long as the major American newspapers are corporate pawns, we must find useable news elsewhere. Local dailies and weeklies are usually good sources of local events, but are too full of disaster and crime. Our lives should be full of contentment and purpose, but I believe most newspapers will never be able to fulfill this need.

  12. Rick says:

    Our local rag was consumed by Sun Media a while ago and now has so little local content that it isn’t worth opening. Sun even scooped our free distribution weekly and gutted it. A feisty local journalist has just started up a new weekly so there is now hope. Honest media is a cornerstone of democracy. I fear that we’ve already lost that battle at the national and provincial/state levels so trying to keep local government on track is all we’ve got left.

  13. anne sauter says:

    Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1835 ‘Democracy in America’, read 15 years ago, still rings out as a prescient and worthy observation of the importance of a free press in maintaining democracy.

    Thank you

  14. Rita says:

    I share your worry about our literacy and democracy due to ignorance. It takes time and effort to figure out the truth even when one is a discerning reader, listener, and viewer. Objectively assessing a given subject from multiple credible references in the era of information overload requires independent thinking and a level of effort that many people lack the time or interest for. I regularly observe people’s emotions affecting what they choose to believe, regardless of what the facts demonstrate.

    Recently I had the same quandary about whether or not to renew my subscription to our local daily newspaper, The Reading Eagle. I decided to renew ($107.90 for 26 weeks) because the management and editors are working to generate original content of interest and value to the local readership, plus it’s still a small privately owned family company rather than a withering appendage of a large media conglomerate. The latter of those two reasons compels me to support it on general principle, but from a business perspective I believe the only possible key to survival of local print news publishing is to generate relevant material that people are interested in knowing about and unable to find anywhere else, and therefore have an incentive to pay for from that specific source, although it seems as if this could be achieved in a weekly, rather than a daily, publication.

  15. Donna in Delaware says:

    Newspaper for local news. BBC for international news. NPR for all types of news. The Economist magazine for world news.

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