June 13, 2011

We could not have said this better ourselves

If you want to learn about pro sports, yesterdays weather, police chases, lost pets, car accidents, fires and other headline catching news (all delivered by very sexy looking "script readers") then by all means watch local TV news. The type of news gathering that exposed the city of Bell and the other pension crisis issues in local government is not going to be on the local TV news. Well not until long after it is headline news on blogs and in newsprint. In fact even smallish newspapers like the press telegram don't cover this stuff. It takes "real" "investigative journalism". Not regurgitating press releases by the local government news machine like some "local" news papers are happy to do. In fact that was one of the uglier parts of the CIA leak case during the Bush years. Even the national media and government work hand in hand to promote each other. Its a dirty business but in some cases its the only way to get a story. The media does not have the time nor resources to "dig" by hand for everything they print daily.

This was a very good program highlighting the problem. Of course it was on PBS and advocated doing what we did in the late 1700's and early 1800's and that was using public funding structure to promote investigative journalism (sort of like what we do with PBS). The Founding Fathers made the First Amendment first as I think they realized that without a non governmental "check" on government we would have a real problem long term with our government. Just look at the countries that repress true and open journalism and see how well they pass the democracy test. The problem we have now is the "blogopshere" has taken over journalism so its really hard to know who to trust. Government or the bloggers.

Here at LAAG we wish we had a full time staff like the NY Times or LA Times just to dig around over at city hall. I am sure we would find some embarrassing stuff. But we don't have the staff the city does (nor the tax dollars). They can bury it a lot faster than we can dig it up.

Oh and in case you were wondering, still no "details" from the Lakewood City Council on how they are going to be more "transparent" in 2011. First I think Larry Van Nostran has to look the word up in the dictionary.

FCC report on media warns of decline in quality local news
June 9, 2011 | 3:21 pm

A new report from the Federal Communications Commission warned that the "independent watchdog function that the founding fathers envisioned for journalism" is at risk in local communities across the country.

In a 475-page report released Thursday titled, "The Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age," the government regulatory agency, which has oversight over television and radio as well as certain aspects of the Internet, said there is a "shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting" that could lead to "more government waste, more local corruption," "less effective schools" and other problems.

"The less quality reporting we have, the less likely we are to learn about government misdeeds,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement released with the report.

A topic of discussion in the report is the Los Angeles Times' coverage of the abuses by the city administration in Bell. Although the Pulitzer-Prize winning efforts of The Times exposed the corruption, it went on for years before getting noticed.

“A lot of residents tried to get the media’s attention, but it was impossible,” community activist and teacher Christina Garcia told the FCC. “The city of Bell doesn’t even have a local paper; no local media of any sort.”

Indeed, the FCC noted that The Times covers almost 100 municipalities and 10 million residents. David Lauter, Metro editor of The Times, is quoted as saying that his staff is “spread thinner and there are fewer people on any given area.... We’re not there every day, or even every week or every month. Unfortunately, nobody else is either.”

Local TV is singled out in the report for not covering important issues enough. Although the number of hours of local news has increased over the last few years, too few stations "are investing in more reporting on critical local issues," the report said. Furthermore, the report said that although stations may be adding newscasts, they are doing it with fewer reporters.

Even with the additional newscasts, the stories often focus on crime and the reason for that has more to do with how cheap it is to cover crime stories than it does viewer demand.

While the report, which was originally to be titled "The Future of Media," said there has been an explosion of media platforms because of the growth of digital platforms, at the same time there has been a decline in quality as a result of the same technology boom.

"As technology offered consumers new choices, it upended traditional news industry business models, resulting in massive job losses," the FCC said.

The result has been "gaps in coverage that even the fast-growing digital world has yet to fill." Although the digital media may someday fill the void left by diminishing traditional media, "at this moment the media deficits in many communities are consequential."

-- Joe Flint

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™ click here to receive LAAG posts by email

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