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Self-Pity Party


San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders, writing on the demise of the dead tree news business:

As for those who only read their news online, here’s a news flash: News stories do not sprout up like Jack’s bean stalk on the Internet. To produce news, you need professionals who understand the standards needed to research, report and write on what happened. If newspapers die, reliable information dries up.

Reduced ad revenue and falling newspaper circulation mean that there will be fewer people to cover the same number of stories. In the middle of an economic crisis and President Obama’s federal spending bonanza, there will be fewer watchdogs to guard the shop.


Newspapers are the public’s referees as to which information is credible. You can go online and read no end of fiction and smear about public figures. But when you read content in a newspaper, you consistently can rely on it.

As every conservative pundit knows, there is a special credibility that comes with being able to say, “as the New York Times reported,” or “as the Washington Post reported.” Even “as The Chronicle reported.”

“Special credibility?”  Bwahahahahaha! 

The credibility of the print media is “special” alright, but not in the way Saunders means.  Ask Vicki Iseman about the special credibility of the New York Times.  But don’t ask Jayson Blair or Judith Miller.

I’ve been reading the Chron since I was a kid, and its glory days are long since past.  A few years ago the paper was purchased by Hearst Communications:

 Hearst Communications, Inc. is a privately-held American-based media conglomerate based in the Hearst Tower in New York City, USA. Founded by William Randolph Hearst as an owner of newspapers, the company’s holdings now include a wide variety of media. The Hearst family is involved in the ownership and management of the company.

Hearst is one of the largest diversified communications companies in the world. Its major interests include 16 daily and 49 weekly newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle and Albany Times Union; as well as interests in an additional 43 daily and 72 non-daily newspapers owned by MediaNews Group, which include the Denver Post and Salt Lake Tribune; nearly 200 magazines around the world, including Cosmopolitan and O, The Oprah Magazine; 28 television stations through Hearst-Argyle Television which reach a combined 18% of U.S. viewers; ownership in leading cable networks, including Lifetime Television, A&E Television Networks, The History Channel and ESPN; as well as business publishing, Internet businesses, television production, newspaper features distribution and real estate.

William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer (as in “Pulitzer Prize”) are responsible for the term “yellow journalism” which is sleazy, sensationalistic news reporting.  I think those two men would fit right in with today’s news media.  According to Wikipedia:

As Martin Lee and Norman Solomon noted in their 1990 book Unreliable Sources, Hearst “routinely invented sensational stories, faked interviews, ran phony pictures and distorted real events.”

Hearst’s use of “yellow journalism” techniques in his New York Journalto whip up popular support for U.S. military adventurism in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898 was also criticized in Upton Sinclair’s 1919 book, The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism. According to Sinclair, Hearst’s newspaper employees were “willing by deliberate and shameful lies, made out of whole cloth, to stir nations to enmity and drive them to murderous war.” Sinclair also asserted that in the early 20th century Hearst’s newspapers lied “remorselessly about radicals,” excluded “the word Socialist from their columns” and obeyed “a standing order in all Hearst offices that American Socialism shall never be mentioned favorably.” In addition, Sinclair charged that Hearst’s “Universal News Bureau” re-wrote the news of the London morning papers in the Hearst office in New York and then fraudulently sent it out to American afternoon newspapers under the by-lines of imaginary names of non-existent “Hearst correspondents” in London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Berlin, etc.

The idea that we need newspapers to be watchdogs is based on the false premise that up until now they have been guarding the public henhouse.  The reality is they have been acting as look-outs for the foxes and biting the hands that feed them.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Bob Somerby.

It seems to me that the decline of ethics and quality in news reporting (all media) coincides with the consolidation of the news media and its acquisition by the corporatists.  Newspapers are “subsidiaries” of media conglomerates and the media conglomerates are either owned outright or incestuously involved with major corporations.

As the media and the political class have become increasingly dependent upon wealthy corporatists they have become less concerned with the best interests of the rest of us.  Since the media doesn’t care about what happens to us, why should we care about what happens to them?

94 Responses

  1. Ok, don’t laugh, but what is WATB?

  2. whiny ass titty baby

  3. sorry I asked.

  4. I believe Atrios is to blame for it

  5. I saw this on Greta re: Glenn Beck show.
    Do you believe the nerve?

    Glenn Beck held up papers from the stimulus with Obamas name actually on earmarks of his own. (Also quite a few for Joe Biden). During the show a spokesperson for OB contacted Glenn and issued a statement that Obamas name has just been removed. Glenn just looked in the camera and said “did you get that? his name has been removed but not the earmarks”, this was on live TV and quite amusing. No more statements were issued. LOL

    • What????? But how can this be? Gergen said yesterday he believes Obama is against earmarks–how can the unsubstantiated vague baseless touchy feelings of professionals qualified to research and report be wrong?

      • I am so sick of Obama’s shit !!! F’ing liar. Punk

        That’s why the San Francisco RAG is going under — they won’t report on the news.

        • Seattle’s rag is going under too … there’s barely enough to line a cat box with … My dad and all the elderly folks in his building have quit reading it and then get calls out the time to come back. They get quite feisty with the operators. Dad says he gets better news from his box of cereal.

        • They make up their own news–dogs and whether palin’s son-in-law graduated. And expect us to care

    • Wait, the Obama has ear-marks in the stimulus bill? This sounds too insane to be true…!!!

  6. Except for the WATB part, I agree completely. In February, we canceled our subscription to the NY Times and the Baltimore Sun. My daughter made me wait until the Ravens were out of Super Bowl contention to cancel the Sun. I stopped believing what was written inside. Taking the papers from the front lawn to the recycling bin seemed silly.

  7. To produce news, you need professionals who understand the standards needed to research, report and write on what happened. If newspapers die, reliable information dries up.

    How does she go from A to B. none of the information we’re getting now, from most sources, is reliable. the internet just gives us access to more and more opportunities to be misinformed.

  8. But when you read content in a newspaper, you consistently can rely on it.

    “When E.F. Hutton, people listen.”

    “I am not a crook.”

    “Now, I’m not going to lie to you [fill in blank]”…


  9. Taking the papers from the front lawn to the recycling bin seemed silly.

    Small local papers publish lots of things that make them viable – local news, want ads, announcements.

    Notice that most of the ones having trouble are the big papers.

  10. Ms.Saunders is talking about news papers of many years ago. I am saddened by thier passing as well…..but that was some time ago. Her lament is years late .

    • I’m a long ago J-school grad (pre-Woodward/Bernstein). As one of my major class projects, I decided to research Edward R. Murrow and in the process listened to lots of his “You Are There” recordings, something which gave me chills. Murrow became my gold standard for journalistic integrity, as he became for whole generations of serious news people. The news media’s long slide over to the dark side is positively painful for anyone who ever gave a damn about real reporting.

      • The thing is that people like Keith Olbermann actually believe that they are the reincarnation of Murrow and are fighting his good fight.

        • Another one turning over in the grave, Murrow this time. Without a doubt, he would loathe just about everything Olbermann stands for, especially his fricking showboating. Which, come to think of it, is about all the creep does stand for.

      • I studied journalism in the late 70s and I share your pain. Our community college paper had stricter standards than the cr@p passed off for news these days.

  11. This was in my print newspaper today:

    With Americans in the throes of a deep recession challenging their spirits as well as their economic survival, President Obama might have stuck to the stirring rhetoric that is one of his greatest gifts. Instead, he offered more than that, more than hope and promises. As a result, his first address to a joint session of Congress will be remembered as the moment when he set out a more specific agenda for his presidency and called the country to muster its strength for a long road back to stability and prosperity.

    I guess the “information” they’re trying to deliver is to get down on my knees and thank my lucky stars that we have Dear Leader Opampers to do all the thinking while I do all the suffering. OH and to tell me that he just bought a 2000 dollar dog….

    • this is the first comment to the editorial above from the Raleigh News/Observer,

      Your story is pure insanity. Why not call this a political ad? “Why, we are so stupid that we believe anything you write? This is a sickening excuse for your lack of foresight and digging for news. Do you actually think the President can talk away our problems. We are not children and actions speak louder that words. I am insulted by your lame attempt to pump up what cannot be true. God help us all.

      I swear I didn’t write it, maybe it was shtuey…

    • Do you get the Raleigh paper, gary? When I lived there briefly in the mid-80s, the only thing I could relate to in the Observer (?) was the Far Side cartoons. Back then, it was a tad on the conservative side.

      But yah, the excerpt above is totally gag worthy.

      • I don’t pay for it. the only thing the print version is good for is the crossword, and I usually do the one in the leftie free weekly
        around here, The Independent. I stopped reading the articles after Chapel Obotia and Durham went over to the dark side…

    • Heh, whatever would I have done without the media knowledge that enables me to know what type of dog Sasha and Malia will be getting?(eyes rolling)

      I’d like to welcome the creative class unable to get their positions in the administration to the bread line. Consider this your share of the downpayment on the bright and shiny war you sold under Bush.

      • But, cwaltz, aren’t you the slightest bit interested in upcoming canine wardrobe developments? Does Gap do doggie couture?

    • Bleah. The only notable thing about his faux SOTU was that he offered more specifics than the detail-free cr*p he pushed during the campaign. But “more” is a relative term. It is not synonymous with “a lot” or “sufficient”.

      I think a lot of people are in for a rude awakening, when they realize the specifics of ‘hope and change’ do not include the ability to buy the next new iPhone. The Ogeneration is not exactly familiar with concepts of sacrifice, having to do for themselves, or having to go without.

  12. My husband worked in a major paper’s research dept for almost 20 years. He watched it get ever more PR and vapid …..In 2003 they got rid of the research dept . They wanted to make up shit and spin in peace and didn’t like paying for actual facts they wouldn’t use..

    We have been saying for years the big papers are dinosaurs in a tar pit. The roll of paper needed is as big as a house and those who like to read the paper
    are dying off. ….but even this could be handled if the papers had any wish for printing the truth….or original content . They don’t. The day an AP article appeared above the fold of this major paper, we knew it was over.

    And the “serious” media all went nuts during Bill’s first term and never recovered….plus the bean counters took over from newspaper people. They saw it like it was pizzas, car radios or some other widget…. It wasn’t

    • Hi paperdoll. Do you have an email address so I can send you a question? If you want to exchange emails, let me know and maybe we can do it through riverdaughter or one of the moderators here. Thanks.

      • I’m intrigued! lol! But I don’t know how we would exchange emails as I have but one account….hmmmm….. is a puzzlment . Do you know a
        moderator well enough to ask them, cause I don’t .
        Just tell me you are from RD on the subject.

        • Is there a moderator anywhere? Can you email paper doll my email address? Or tell me how I can contact one of you to do this?

  13. Wherever you live the local news (print, radio and/or TV) relies on official sources for info (police, DA, city gov) and is not going to want to piss them off.

    They also have to worry about pissing off advertisers.

    • Sorry to say, our local newspaper has maybe three advertisers, three more than they deserve. We call it The World Guardian. I recently learned that the newspaper is owned by a teachers union in Tennessee, the entire membership of which should be required to move here.

      There’s a direct correlation between the town’s lack of a decent paper and the number of highly lucrative scams land developers can pull off. Courtesy of a virtual news vacuum, we have an abysmal mayor, a rubber stamp city council, intractable poverty in the Latino ‘hoods, few decent jobs outside the university, and lousy public schools.

      So see, it doesn’t take a faceless corporation to screw things up in the news business. A distant teachers union can serve the same purpose.

  14. The Rocky Mountain News is going out of business tomorrow. I heard it on NPR on the way home. After the way the newspapers lied to us in the lead up to Iraq, I never trust them anymore. I cancelled my subscription to the Boston Globe in 2004, because they were doing everything in their power to get Bush re-elected.

  15. If anyone is interested 5.5 million Hits!

  16. Every one will oneday know that reliable news only comes from the Confluence….

    Fuzzys creative spelling and use of grammar aside!

  17. is that good Myiq2xu?

    I mean what do Yes to hypocracy and ButtBurger get?

  18. The news media’s long slide over to the dark side is positively painful for anyone who ever gave a damn about real reporting.

    The “golden age” of news reporting was from WWII to sometime between Watergate and the Reagan administration.

    During that period journalism became “professional” and there were lots of print and TV reporters who tried to be ethical and objective.

    That 30 year period ended 30 years ago

    • Unhappily enough, the whole Woodward/Bernstein epic seems to have kicked off the big slide. Journalism became something through which writers could achieve fame, make book deals, even be portrayed (or appear themselves) in movies, and become instant talking heads. No more, more or less anonymous (and happy to be so) ink stained weirdos with bad taste clothing, toiling behind the scenes and cracking wise on deadline, while they secretly fretted about the State Of Things and hoped they might one day make A Difference.. The big slide was increasingly greased with money, primarily on the teevee side in the beginning. It was all downhill from there.

  19. I dont get the Gainesville Sun….anymore. I stopped when they took away their folksie ltag line…

    The Gainsville Sun…It Shines for Alachua County!

    It has been down hill since then

  20. It was corny I know….Mom refers to the Penacola News/Journal as “the mullet wrapper”

    Mullet is a trash fish (but tasty fried with hush puppies) so its not a nice thing to say….

    I remember my dad getting the evening paper when we first moved to Pensacola about a year and a half later they killed the evening paper and that was it for dad He said he didnt like stale news…he refused the 6 months free mornng paper offer to switch.

  21. I just read over at http://www.newsbusters.org that some hypocrite at the New York Times (I believe) went on a rant about Americans using soft toilet paper, and that the use of soft toilet paper kills trees, including old growth forests. Now, I’m pretty much a tree hugger, but can’t really find it in myself to chastise Americans for using toilet paper or for liking soft paper.

    I have decided, however, to do my part to save a tree by avoiding the purchase of any newspapers or magazines. My new motto is …. save a tree …. cancel your newspapers and magazine subscriptions.

    In truth, we’ve reached the point where most papers contain recycled AP stories while magazines are primarily advertisements (including advertisements for soft old growth forest killing toilet paper), so I don’t think I’ll really be missing out on much.

    • If they stop selling the soft toilet paper, we could always use the NYT instead–and don’t pay for it, get it from other people’s recycled stuff.

      • Ann Althouse:

        The NYT is printed on paper. Great massive rolls of paper. What’s more important: printed newspaper — I can read the news on line — or soft fluffy toilet paper? You can’t wipe your ass on line — though, God knows, some people have tried. We need toilet paper! Soft fluffy toilet paper. Leave me alone!

  22. toilet paper is biodegradable and if you are Cheryl Crowe you only need 4 sheet to do the job….even after a nice Vegan meal of organic beans red green black and white mixed with carrots asparagus and zuchini folowed by wAtermelon catalope and grapes with pineapple and macadamia nuts…..

    I bet she is a noizy sleeper

  23. Ok, totally off topic but I was just reading online about the Democratic Congressman who isn’t crazy about the new obama budget and just have this to say about Mississippi Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor:

    Man, he is one good looking guy!!

    carry on

  24. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/science/earth/26charmin.html?_r=1

    In case anyone would like to read the article. I would rather not see old growth forest cut down to produce toilet paper, but have to wonder just how many trees are sacrificed to print the New York Times.

    I also feel like the chattering and ruling classes are really busy right now telling the masses to be prepared to sacrifice (we must no longer expect to have social security available to help us in our retirement years, we must no longer feel entitled to use enough energy to keep us warm, eat as much as we want, or to purchase soft toilet paper …. who knows what else they’ll attack next …. it’s like we’re both an inconvenience and embarasement to them …. they can’t travel without being reminded how …. (ignorant, wasteful, loud, abnoxious etc. ) …. Americans are).

    • But somehow they still want us to buy their crappy products and read their crappy newspapers and watch their crappy TV shows. No thanks.

  25. of course, if you are a youngin’ he probably will be too old for you to find attractive probably.

  26. I go back to when San Francisco had several newspapers, including the News-Call Bulletin. It seems that when Herb Caen died, the S.F. Chronicle died too. I’ll be glad to see Saunders disappear along with the S.F. Chronicle.

  27. OT, but I read this in my weekly email from National Partnership for Women and Families.


    The SC House passed a bill to increase the waiting period for a woman getting an abortion from 1 hour to 24 hours- after the ultrasound. Apparently women need more time to reflect on their decision. The Repubs also managed to kill the provision to exempt rape victims. How nice… they get to reflect 24 more hours on the rape that brought them there.

    They also killed a provision to protect women from losing their jobs because many will have to take 2 days off from work. I guess now they’ll need to consult not only with their husbands, doctors, and clergy -but their boss as well. I wonder who else they think needs to be consulted? Maybe our congressmen?

    Chip, chip. chip away. Makes me want to scream!

  28. It’s not about journalism but this lovely new PAC has formed to run primary opponents who are not Democratic enough. Looking at the blogs involved, I would say that mean the incumbent is not supportive enough of his Oliness.


    diverse and politically powerful groups have decided to support Accountability Now’s efforts, such as MoveOn, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), DailyKos, ColorOfChange.org, Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats and BlogPAC.

    Why would anyone in their right mind give money or support to a group which contains Kos and MoveOn? Duh

    • How many trees will die so they can send annoying letters begging us to support the next crop of Barack/Caroline nitwits?

  29. That’s pretty much the whole jist of the article but I did like this paragraph:
    (Sorry – don’t know how to do the quote thing)
    Democrats called the measure an “arrogant assumption that women can’t think for themselves,” the AP/Herald reports. Rep. James Smith (D) said the bill says to women, “we don’t think you thought well enough about [an abortion] on your own. We don’t trust you enough, so you’ve got to come back twice.” He added that his male colleagues in the House “won’t ever be making that decision, but you will, with a push of a button on your desk, make a decision for women.” Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D) said abortion-rights opponents were hypocritical for passing legislation limiting access to abortion while defeating a proposal to accelerate social services to women who decide to carry a pregnancy to term. Cobb-Hunter said, “We love the fetus, but there’s very little outpouring of love when that child is born.” She added that the bill, for some, “appears to be a very slippery slope” that “begs the question: How far will we go?”

  30. help, in moderation.

  31. It’s not about journalism but this lovely new PAC has formed to run primary opponents who are not Democratic enough.

    Chances are they are from conservative districts so if they lose in the primary to a liberal the GOP could win the general.

  32. The S.F. Chron used to always win one of the top ten worst newspaper awards, mainly because it could have been so much better. Still it was way ahead of the evening Hearst rag, the S.F. Examiner, now a free tabloid (it it still exists).

    I’ll miss the Chron, even the Hearst-degraded version, but not Debra Saunders.

    BTW, the Chron worked overtime to sell Obama and trash Hillary and Palin.

  33. Journalists today aren’t interested in investigating stories anymore. They’re chasing fame and fortune. It’s not about what story is important; it’s about what story will make their careers so they can write books and have movies made about them. Their idea of investigative journalism isn’t about the President’s possible connections to a disgraced and possibly criminal former governor of his home state, but about an arrest of a former vice presidential nominee’s daughter’s boyfriend’s step-mother. I grew up in the Soviet Union – I can still wipe my ass with a newspaper if I have to.

  34. Hysterical!!!!!

  35. No media types get anywhere by reporting what thier paymasters do not want known. The owners will not PAY for the truth… are you kidding? They are willing only to pay for thier approved lies, thank you.

    Back in the day journalist were paid little and were looked down on . The owners figured out that if you pay some ridiculous salaries and make them celberies, they will not report news, but read what’s in front of them. I believe only the 80 year old reporters left( like Helen ) would even remember what is was like to investigate a situation in order to report it. Today they have a pre decided slant and twist facts to support that. Facts are to be spun, not reported.

    The collapse of journalism has been going on for decades. The run up to the war and the “embedding ” was the final credibility straw…the Barry love was/is the beginning of the free fall. I just have to laugh whenever a paper looks down on a blog. Funny!!!

  36. Guess what? The era of free access to news on the internet is over

    NEW YORK, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Cablevision Systems Corp (CVC.N) plans to charge online readers of its Newsday newspaper, a move that would make it one of the first large U.S. papers to reverse a trend toward free Web readership.

    • More likely the days of Newsday are numbered. It’s a desperate move by Cablevision.

      Free online access to information and communication is one of the few silver linings to this recession as the traditional msm fall. Availability of choices are too high and switching cost too low for that situation to change. Now if only the web could feed us and shelter us..

      • Aw, it’s just a matter of time till our corporate ruling-class masters find a way to make us pay for the Internet. Even more than we already pay our ISPs, I mean.

        • Don’t believe it Eleanor A. They have been trying for 15 years. There will be commercial things here and there. But the main power of the web comes from its users and the content they generate. It’s different from offline media where the gatekeepers have always controled things.

  37. Saunders can kiss my a$$…the SAME crap we read in print is the SAME crap we read on line.
    Here’s the laugh of the day “To produce news, you need professionals who understand the standards needed to research, report and write on what happened. ”
    Really? So,WHERE the f^ck was the MSM last year during the primaries?

  38. “Newspapers are the public’s referees as to which information is credible. You can go online and read no end of fiction and smear about public figures. But when you read content in a newspaper, you consistently can rely on it”

    If they do say so themselves.

  39. “It seems to me that the decline of ethics and quality in news reporting (all media) coincides with the consolidation of the news media and its acquisition by the corporatists.”

    myq — Exactly. We used to have 2 dailies (opposite political persuasions) but then they were consolidated under Gannet newspapers and it sucks. The national news is from AP and other papers. But, the local stuff is pretty good. During the election, you didn’t see any negative reporting or printing of LTEs about Obama. & we supposedly have a political news correspondent. Here’s the other thing that bugs me… when did local news on tv become national news experts? If they’d actually form their own opinions it would be one thing. We have them traveling to DC all the time and parrot the same stuff you just saw in national media.

  40. Here MIQ2XU —

    I worked 20 years for one, now my town doesn’t have one.
    America will rue the day more are shuttered as this — a sad day today…a newspaper’s library holds the history of a town — how is the blog world to provide that?

    Or the G? It can’t. My friends and I survived the era when the megabuyouts destroyed the industry. Now when the Chron goes and LAT gets finished off? THERE WILL BE NO NEWS. PERIOD,

    There are much larger social ramifications to what is going on in a post paper world…

    this is very sad about the Rocky Mountain News…


    take a look….at their last day at that link.

  41. I don’t think papers will vanish – just the big mega papers.

    I think smaller local papers will spring up to replace them.

  42. that did happen, here — in several ways — but not quite the same…
    not quite…

    they could use renewables like bamboo or other stuff for the paper — not trees…

    here is to small stuff happening all over….
    I really feel sorry for those guys this morning –how they must feel after years in the biz. Ugh.


    Banks, newspapers….all the stuff we always depended on….

    anyway hugs!


    now for the clownier reads which lighten it all up….

  43. ps: the latest trend is like Kindle? Here is an article on what Hearst is doing in case you haven’t seen…


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