Monday, October 27, 2008

Why The Layoffs at the DMN Matter To You

I've seen plenty of people - myself included - wax pithy about the latest round of layoffs at the Dallas Morning News. I think pretty much everyone (except for a few who still inexplicably believe circulation is down because the McCain-supporting paper is hanging too far to the left) is in agreement that the paper's death spiral is thanks to poor, shortsighted management. As I've said before, I think a lot of the issues facing newspapers now come from a supreme lack of foresight in regards to the Internet. While newspapers were sleeping, complacent in the fact that everyone always wants news, faster, stronger, and sleeker entities like Google popped up to deliver the news buffet style - "I'd like some of this from Europe, some of that from the Middle East, and ooh - give me music news from these three sources" ended up trumping even the online versions of newspapers. So news organizations fold, reduce, or consolidate. Anything to survive, right? Well, again while we all were sleeping, the reduced number of journalists left to fight the good fight, combined with the fact that newspaper management is now busy trying to figure out how to keep the presses rolling instead of concentrating on shining sunshine on the government and acting like the Fourth Estate, we managed to let another problem fester. Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index was released today, and the U.S. - the so-called bastion of freedom of the press - is at an unconscionable 36th place in the latest global rankings of press freedom. And sadly, that's an increase of 12 points from last year. Among the things contributing to the country's shamefully low rating (considering who we are), Reporters Without Borders said, were a lack of regulation in regards to how many news organizations one conglomerate could own. So to bring it all back around, eventually the powers that be at both the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram will have to make some tough decisions. Do we fold? Do we combine? And either case makes it that much more likely that even more inroads will be made in how well - and how freely - those that report the news in Dallas/Fort Worth can do their jobs. So why do the layoffs at the DMN matter to you? Because when you're missing pertinent information, your decisions cease to be informed ones, for one. And, frankly, reporters do what we don't want - or have time - to do: namely, follow the trail, suss out not readily apparent facts and make those repeated calls to various officials and sources to find out the truth. The truth. With each layoff, we get dangerously close to not getting the complete picture. Last week, we became 22 people closer to merely getting the closest approximation of the truth instead.