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join the discussion: What do you make of the dramatic  changes occurring in the news business --  the pressures for profits in network news and newspapers, the new definition of what's news, the citizen journalism movement, the  impact  of the Internet?

newsprint

Dear FRONTLINE,

We have seen the journalism of TV erode to the level of the tabloid to keep interest of the viewing public. I fear this with print media. We need to be aware that a larger number of journals keep a less controlled environment for political manipulators which are able to affect the owners and editors of them. The Internet allows a larger and more diverse opinion pool but of course we must be, as always, evaluating the sources (a skill that is still not taught effectively in the education system today).

News is not truth, as it is always a translation of the events and circumstances. It is time that the journalists create their own business model that allows us to get a professional evaluation of the "News". With the Internet, we could pay for this rather than pay advertisers for the cost of pulp and corporate infrastructure. I would be willing to spend the newspaper cost on this type of service instead.

I will miss the physical paper in hand. It feels so much more tangible and documented when the ink is still fresh.

Ernest Brown
Toledo, OR

Dear FRONTLINE,

What's to say it's not just the swing of the pendulum? Digital's in its honeymoon right now. We're all agog over its immediacy, its potential, its ease and cheapness. But eventually we'll learn that if we want responsible reporting--and we do--we have to feed trained journalists. We'll figure out a way to port more trained reporters over to digital. We'll live well with print-digital hybrids. And we'll make digital media self-supporting enough that it can pay journalists a living wage. In fact, it's already happening.

We're just going through the same troubles any profession faces when an easier, cheaper, more effective technology surfaces. Witness: auto assembly workers v. robots, Pony Express riders v. the transcontinental railroad, monk scribes v. the printing press.

Speaking of hybrids, the Columbia Journalism Review has a great story about this issue, um, on its Web site: The Race <http://www.cjr.org/issues/2007/2/Kuttner.asp>.

A snippet:

"By now I was feeling very last century. And then Ezra, perhaps taking pity, handed me a trump. You have one thing right, he volunteered. The best material on the Internet consistently comes from Web sites run by print organizations.

"So journalism reigns after all. But can this supremacy continue? Here we encounter a paradox on top of an irony. The paradox is that new forms of media, while challenging the very survival of newspapers, are quickly becoming their savior--both as a journalistic and a business proposition."

Thank you, PBS and Frontline, for this amazingly deep, broad, and important series. It ought to be required viewing in every j-school and HS civics class.

Sally Wright Day
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for the wonderful program, "News War." As a subscriber to the Los Angeles Times, I have witnessed the changes of the paper since 2000. The good quality articles and editiorials have evaporated. Your program exposed the Wall Street philosophy contributing to this demise.

I believe the Wall Street philosophy about newpapers is incorrect. I believe, the Internet as a distribution mechanism is naturally better suited for the coverage of local news. An expose or in-depth news story is particulary suited to a physical newspaper.

Additionally, when reading a physical paper, a reader will discover stories that he/she may not necessarily be seeking out. A physical paper will not let the reader alone dictate the experience whereas the online experience is dominated by the reader. The Internet is a much less collaborative experience between the Editors, Writers and Readers in a community. I cannnot fathom the effect of lossing in-depth International and National news in any given community newspaper.

With the war in Iraq, Americans are facing a perilous position in the World right now because we made decisions with International consequences based on false evidence. How can anyone believe that less reporting of International news right now is a good thing?

Nira Casey
North Hollywood, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thanks for the great series! Some thoughts on part III:

+ Google, Yahoo, most bloggers, etc. are news pirates. Like music pirates, they are taking content created by others and reselling it for their own profits. If you doubt this, think of what content they would have if all the newspaper reporters lost their jobs. Theft is now apparently a great business strategy.

+ The billionaire ownership strategy has great risks. The prospective billionaire owner of the LAT seemed to be saying that he might dictate his views on public education coverage. Testing? Privatization? Kids could suffer horribly. What would a billionaire developer think of coverage of urban sprawl, a key challenge to our nation's livability, health and environment? Would he tolerate negative coverage of his big business buddies? I think of all the locally owned papers in the South that ignored civil rights for so long. The nonprofit model, however, sounds intriguing as long as it doesn?ft breed complacency and bloat.

+ The series missed a big coming trend: journalism outsourcing to the third world. It sounds like a joke, but imagine a call-center-like journalism center in India. I?'ve read some stories about this already. Since entertainment, business and much of sports is global they could cover the fluffy crap as well as anybody in the U.S., perhaps better and certainly a lot cheaper. Hell, they could even cover Congress, city council meetings and White House press conferences via webcasts. If Wall Street didn't eat the money first, the savings could help pay for U.S. journalists to do the real investigative, analysis and heavy lifting stories. For foreign news, truly foreign correspondents could do the reporting directly in the local language. The dirty secret about Iraq coverage is that most of the hard work is done by Iraqis, who are paid comparatively little and who have died and been injured in far higher numbers.

+ The hyper-local idea made some sense until they got to the little league games. Does Wall Street really want to pay the army of journalists it would take to cover every little league game? Do they even know how many thousands of kid sport games, each lasting hours, there are in even in a small city? The same goes with covering all the other "hyper-local?" events. Clueless.

+ The idea of making print reporters into radio, TV, print reporters is intriguing, but may also be clueless. The basic assumption is that there''s no extra skill involved in radio and TV reporting and that all three can be done simultaneously (without cameramen, engineers or producers) by the same reporter in the same amount of time.

+ I don't think the demand or consumption of news is declining with the internet. If anything, the ease, limitless capacity and time flexibility of the internet has increased consumption/demand. There's a huge fire hose of information, the journalist's job may be filtering it to find and serve up the most important slurps. The question is who will pay her to do the filtering.

+ Katie Couric's $13 million a year salary would pay for about 250 hungry, crack investigative reporters. If the network let them lose, it would really wake America up to a good morning.

Western, Oregon

Dear FRONTLINE,

Great series. I would only quibble with one of your points about the influence of blogs. While the blogs may have breathed some life into the Trent Lott/Strom Thurmond story, it was my uncredited reporting for the New York Times that really made him step down. The news companies were not ignoring the story, just working on it for the weekend. If you go back and look at the story under David Halbfinger's byline from Dec. 15, 2002, under the headline, "In Lott's Life, Long Shadows of Segregation," you will see I was the only reporter to find the racist letters Lott wrote to constituents back in the early 1970s and report on them. No blogger did this. I would argue that was what scared Lott into stepping down as Majority Leader. He could not deny his racist past in the face of this bit of investigative reporting. Sorry bloggers.

Glynn Wilson
Birmingham, AL

Dear FRONTLINE,

The News Wars and the state of Journalism programs were sobering to say the least. Of course being in my 60's, not a big consumer, and buying power limited, the corporate world who seem to own everything unrelated to each other could care less about my opinion. But having grown up in a world where self initiative meant being able to raise a family by working hard, starting a small business and paying decent wages to employees were the hallmarks of success by your peers. Being fair about things on a personal level were the norm.

One can still see remnants of the American dream on buildings of the late 19th C. when businessmen built a structure for the store and put their names in stone at the top. That seems to have lasted into and through the 1950's or so.

Then as times and business in America progressed, corporate life came into its own. And in recent times has begun to "rule the world" so to speak. Hardly anyone now works for a person, but for a corporation. Stockholders whose vision is narrowed only to profit margins. Employees live on subsistance wages, managers barely can afford a lower middle class living if that. Wall street beams. Newspapers are not only the first line of defence, but probably equal in importance to the military.

Unfortunatly we are an ill-informed society now. Self-indulgent, commercial consumers. How did we get that way ? Ask the professors, they who generally have little voice in this country any longer. If newspaper journalist go, so does American democracy as we have known it. Obviosly Eisenhower was correct about the military-industrial complex. Of course now one can add Wall street mentality to the mix. As a lifelong Chicagoan I am embarrased about the Chicago Tribune's dig-in-your-heels attitude, but of course it is a public company ruled by stockholders. I am most likely preaching to the converted...not the need to know unfortunately.

thomas yanul
Chicago, il

Dear FRONTLINE,

After watching part 3 of the News War, I was struck at how similar the story of Wall Street/stockholders control of the LA Times is to the story of Wall Street/stockholders control over the Detroit car industry.

Why don't American cars sell like they used to? It's about the numbers, not about design. Making the LA Times (and other newspapers) be about the numbers and not about the product is following the same troubled path. So, if the American newspapers aren't allowed to produce the product, perhaps the foreign press will. In fact, the English version of Al Jazeera is on its way.

Jan Lincoln
Ruidoso, New Mexico

Dear FRONTLINE,

our LA Times newspaper is counted upon to bring us reports, stories and info we might not get in any other way. I prefer to read the news rather than hear it or use the internet.

If we consider limiting our newspapers to "local" news, or allowing only two newspapers(NY TImes, Washington Post) to carry a world story i think we are limiting who will tell the story. how the newspaper continues remains to be seen butif stock members ran the world we would never have seen Free Libraries. When we see people like Eli Broad willing to help there is hope that the news will go on.

barb gulden
santa rosa valley, ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

When the discussion turns to whether the Internet will ever take over as a sole news source, I feel it won't. The web is simply another vehicle to disseminate information -- albeit with the added feature of being interactive compared with TV and newspapers. Yes the 'citizen journalist' can upload video and information, but has that 'journalist' gone through the fact-checking process to confirm sources? Probably not. Have they run the copy by the editor(s) for final edits and approval? No. When it comes to legitimate hard news the public needs to be reassured that what they're reading/viewing on the web is timely, correct and truthful.

I hate to think that we live in an era when any hack that comes alone can post information on the web, and it's automatically taken as quality, factual news copy.

I also don't think we're experiencing the 'death knell' of television news -- network or cable. Heck, when I come back from a hard day at the office working at a computer, the last thing I want to do is fire up my home computer to get news. I want to relax in front of the tube (or LCD/Plasma screen).

Thank you Frontline and Lowell Bergman for your insightful and informative look at our modern news media problems.

James Stellhorn
Scottsdale, AZ

Dear FRONTLINE,

"What's Happening with the News" was one the finest programs ever produced by Frontline, which is saying something. The story of the mess at the Los Angeles Times was compelliing and beautifully told.

The lasting impact I have from this program is how sad it is that talented newspapermen and women are being shown the door, while a pretty face in his or her 20s or 30s becomes popular for producing a short piece on the video. As one person on the show said, "Where's the journalism here?" Let's hope this is just these people getting their 15 minutes of fame, because their work is clearly surface level, meant to throw a cloud on an otherwise sunny day, while the real research (that allows these people to even exist online) is being performed by newspaper reporters.

tom hyland
chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for your outstanding Frontline series "The News Wars"--Brilliant, insightful, compelling and frightening in its ramifications.

Lorin Weigard
Dillsburg, Pa

Dear FRONTLINE,

I've heard that the CEO of the NY times thinks in 10 years, the Times will be strictly online.Many of those interviewed in this program feel the same. I love my computer and the easily available information at my fingertips but if I want real news, I tune in Jim Lehrer's Evening news on PBS or buy a newspaper.I don't like trying to read news off the web and it's widely known that there is more misinformation on the web than in high schoolBlogs are just opinion and reaction. Journalism? I don't think so.

My son is in the tech industry. He gets his real news from newspapers.

I might be wrong but as John C. Devorac said recently...the "discovery" of reading a newspaper, rather than just looking up exactly what you were looking for, is priceless.

Reggie Kenner
Bakersfield, Ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your series on the news has been incredibly insightful. After just finishing reading State of Denial, the thought that we are depending on a small number of papers for news of any substance is chilling.

Although anyone can take videos or post an opinion, journalism that is based on credible sources, good investigative skills, and careful analyses are central to the health of a democracy. Thanks for your terrific work!

Saratoga Springs, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

While a free and adequately funded press are foundational to our democracy, there is another major foundational factor involved in the decline of the news media that your story neglected to address- the conscious dumbing down of the American educational system, so that citizens no longer find reading a comfortable activity which they have the patience for.

As Thomas Jefferson pointed out, an educated citizenry is the sine qua non of any democracy, so if there are cracks developing in of system, it is because the citizenry is no longer able to intelligently exercise the informed accountability function that Jefferson and the rest of our founding fathers anticipated in making them the source of governmental power.

The coming to fruition of Orwellian newspeak in our contemporary society's use of language either consciously says things that mean exactly the opposite of what they say- like "free trade" and "no child left behind" or mouth empty and untrue edspeak platitudes that talk about "all children going to college" when the quantifiable reality is that the total capacity of all colleges and universities in the United States is only 40% of high school graduates.

These occurrences are not accidental, but rather the conscious implementation of an exclusively profit driven corporate dominated government that does not want to be fettered by the informed criticism of a knowledgeable citizenry as was anticipated by our constitution.

Leonard Isenberg
Los Angeles, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

These Wall Street investors really underestimate the readers of newspaper. I believe any daily newspaper reader subscribes newspaper for reasons beyond local coverage and sports. The arrogance and greed of the Wall Street are the real problems of the newspaper industry. Instead of thinking progressively, they tried to do the quick fix by lay-off and cost cutting. If they are really that savvy, they should understand that the business will not benefit in the long run. Look at the airline and auto industry; lay-off and cost cutting can only boost their profit temporarily; problems still exist. On top of it, who are they to tell those journalists who risk their lives to bring us the real facts in war zones, the true human stories in Darfur, and the vivid images of melting glacier not appreciated. Most internet websites understand it: content is the key to success. By cutting cost and limiting the scope of coverage, they are compromising on the content.

I hoped the Tribune will sell LA Times to Mr. Broad or back to the Chandler Family before they turn it into a Tabloid.

Anita To
Los Angeles, California

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posted feb. 13, 2007

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