Earlier this week, C-J columnist John David Dyche wrote an assessment of local and national media. He gave deserved credit to the C-J’s Dan Klepal and James Bruggers for their investigative stories, and threw in references to Phillip Bailey of WFPL and a couple of local TV stations for their investigative work on JCPS.
Dyche, who’s not a full-timer at the C-J, likely had no idea that Gannett was about to decimate the staff at the paper. As we assess the carnage, the C-J will no longer publish Velocity as a separate entity, and no one at the paper is saying how often it’s going to publish Neighborhoods stories. Coverage of Indiana is pretty much over for local readers, except when it re-publishes Gannett-produced stories. One less columnist is one less viewpoint on local issues.
It would seem to be a dark day for local journalism.
But I would say this — not so fast, my friends.
Or this — change is good.
When I’m asked about the future of the C-J, people seem to expect me to come up with a date certain when the paper will publish its last issue. I don’t think that will ever happen, but the direction of the paper’s slide is never going to reverse itself. There will be more cuts, there will be less product, and advertisers will continue to find better ways to spend their marketing dollars than on a paper that nobody under 70 actually reads anymore.
But here’s the good news. For people who are interested in news, there’s plenty of good work being down around town. Over at Louisville Public Media, the news department has expanded. LEO is a strong watchdog on local government. The Voice-Tribune, under the direction of Angie Fenton, is vastly improved and is much more than a place for Society photos. Business First seems to be thriving. There are plenty of local publications serving smaller audiences.
In my view, the TV business has become even more competitive, and stations are taking on the investigative work that keeps governments in line. They’re expanding their news coverage, and new programs like WHAS-TV’s upcoming morning show have promise to be both entertaining and informative. You can criticize their websites all you want, but it’s easy to pick and choose stories you want to know about there. Local TV stations seem to have survived the economic downturn much better than newspapers, and you don’t hear about layoffs there.
And though Dyche’s column doesn’t mention it, there are plenty of independent journalists and columnists and opinion shapers around. Plenty of them write regularly here at LouisvilleKY.com, or at a growing number of electronic news outlets. If you used to spend an hour every morning reading the paper, you can be much better informed about local issues by spending that time cruising local news sites online.
No one wants to see people in media lose their jobs, and let’s hope everyone who lost their job yesterday lands on their feet. But it’s not the end of local journalism.