I was just reading an article yesterday intimating that the Post was resting on its laurels with regard to Watergate (and ignoring the fact that “Deep Throat” was as interested in grinding a personal axe as telling the truth with regards to Nixon. We’ve over-romanticized Woodward and Bernstein. “The Press” as a whole has become nothing more than publishers of press releases and that model can no longer fund “real journalism”. We have our own death spiral here in Philadelphia.
There is a crackup underway at Philadelphia Media Holdings (Inky, Daily News, and Philly.com), with a bipartisan group of local power brokers interested in getting into the news business. From the NYTimes via the Awl:
Edward G. Rendell, the former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor leads the group, which includes George E. Norcross III, a Democratic powerbroker in South New Jersey; the parking lot and banking magnate Lewis Katz; and Edward M. Snider, chairman of the Comcast subsidiary that owns the Philadelphia Flyers. Mr. Rendell recently told reporters he has asked the union leader John J. Dougherty Jr. (or Johnny Doc as he is known locally) to join the group.
Other local bidders, including property developer Bart Blatstein and the billionaire Perlemann family, have been excluded from bidding. The locked out bidders have threatened to start their own media empire, which I applaud (although to be fair digital journalism – as evident by tech journalism specifically is no better than its print ancestors). All of the above – from Blatstein to Snider to Dougherty to Rendell have a vested interest in owning the property who’s coverage can directly impact their own interests and investments, most likely to the detriment of journalism. There was additional shenanigans regarding about its coverage of its own dealings, cries of a wholesale shedding of editorial independence (told in an internal Byokofsky email) regarding the papers own dealings and claims of editorial interference, all under the shadow of still more layoffs.
While I see a benefit in legacy institutions like “the press”, I think they are too isolated from their audiences, confuse their stakeholders and readers (more worried about the former than the later), that striving for balanced coverage creates a “view from nowhere”, that they are too constrained by legacy systems like ‘the printing press’ and labor guilds, and lastly are not agile and innovative enough to compete with new media.
What’s most broken isn’t writing, printing, or distibuting the news but rather how they get paid for it. ADVERTISING is what is broken, and by advertising I mean how the readers’ attention is sold and how publishers get paid, not the mechanism for how said advertising is displayed.
Tags: Bart Blatstein, Ed Rendell, Ed Snider, George Norcross III, Jeffrey Perelman, John J. Dougherty Jr., Lewis Katz, LLC, New York Times, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Media Holdings, philly.com, pmh, Raymond Perelman, Ron Perelman, Stu Bykofsky, Washington Post