Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On journalism's big day - a reminder of big struggles

Newspapers around the country - including this one - got a little quieter about 3 p.m. yesterday as staffers clicked on Web sites and waited on the announcements of the Pulitzer Prizes.

Pulitzer Monday is an annual celebration of the good work newspapers do - from bringing down corrupt mayors to digging into an unusual number of construction worker deaths.

But in what might be journalism's most difficult year, the event also was a reminder of the struggles the industry, like many, is facing. One Pulitzer winner, Paul Giblin of Arizona's East Valley Tribune, was laid off three months ago by his cost-cutting employer. This morning, the winner of five Pulitzers, the New York Times Co., reported that it had lost $74.5 million in the first quarter of 2009 after its advertising revenue dropped 27 percent.

Newspapers are being buffeted on two fronts - not only from a recession that has starved ad revenue in print and online, but a changing media landscape in which more advertisers are opting to go online, which is less expensive for them - and less profitable for media companies than print ads.

The result is staffs being cut across the country - and strong reporters leaving the profession - threatening the kind of journalism the Pultizers honored yesterday.

Such financial challenges led the East Valley Tribune, in suburban Phoenix, to lay off 140 employees earlier this year. Giblin, who was one of those employees, had worked with fellow reporter Ryan Gabrielson since 2007 in examining Sheriff Joe Arpaio's efforts to focus on illegal immigration, its cost to taxpayers and to public safety.

The coverage earned the Tribune, which is owned by Freedom Communications, the Pulitzer in the local reporting category.

“The people down there at the Trib are great people. It wasn't quite as painful for them as it was for me when I got laid off,” Giblin told the Associated Press. “But I know it was painful for them. I don't harbor any ill feelings.”

Giblin learned the news while covering a U.S. Senate committee hearing in Phoenix on border violence. He and three other laid-off reporters have started a Web site, the Arizona Guardian, that focuses on politics and the Arizona Legislature.

“When I left, it didn't make me feel any worse as a journalist,” Giblin said. “I was laid off in really good company. I still think I'm capable of doing good journalism.”


Anonymous said...

"Bringing down corrupt mayors"?


The Observer doesn't try to bring down a corrupt politician until (a) they've endorsed him twice; (b) he's left office.

Anonymous said...

I almost spit my lunch out at the notion the Observer would investigate a corrupt mayor, Dept of DSS, Chief of Police, or even a Governor that it had solidly endorsed over the past decade.
It would take actual effort to expose these problem vs "Wass'up" or a review on the latest video game.

Anonymous said...

How about the fact that nobody wants to buy newspapers because they are so liberally biased you can't read one and keep your lunch down.

Anonymous said...

You did notice that the bit about the corrupt mayor referred to the Detroit paper and their corrupt mayor, right?
I also hope you noticed the scope of the article was national and not local.

Barbara and Scott said...

Reporters getting laid off sucks. Oh well, welcome to the real world with the rest of us. You all think your job is more important than ours. NEWS FLASH! You aren't.

Quit crying, and try to report real news instead of promoting propaganda.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering what folks at newspapers think about the bill introduced in Congress last month that might let papers restructure themselves as nonprofits. Is that even a meaningful idea considering most papers are owned by corporations?

Jason said...

Libral bias? Please, anything not right from the mouth of Rush, Hannity or Next Gingrich is considered librally biased by you zealots. Give me a friggin' break!

Anonymous said...

There is a very simple solution for anyone who truly feels that this newspaper as bad, biased, worthless, etc. as the non stop negative comments indicate.


Anonymous said...

I think newspapers saw the internet as competition for too long and are paying the price. Blogs like this one help, but they may be too little, too late.

Also, it seems that how to effectively use the internet for advertising hasn't been figured out by everybody.

Anonymous said...

At it's best, newspapers do a lot to bring things into the light that are often times kept in the shadows. A funny thing happened after Watergate though; the entrance of the "star" journalist who suddenly became more focused on his/her own fame trying to get the "next big story" rather than simply reporting the truth. Events have become sensationalized to the point of where some journalists actually "make" news rather than reporting on legitimate matters. Every one of us has clicked on some hyperlink on a news website that grabbed our attention only to find the article itself had no substance. Trash articles on public figures private lives abound along with the 24/7 reporting of the Britney Spears meltdown and 24/7 coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's tragic death. No angle left uncovered. Who cares? It's less like news than craning your neck at an accident. I didnt vote for Obama, and I find it amusing how much the media loved him until he actually got into office and started making decisions. News reporting has lost a lot of its focus, and even more of its relevance.

Anonymous said...

All you whiners complaining about the biased Charlotte Observer: why don't you start your own right wing newspaper and read that?

Oh. Right.