Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Short takes: American media looks in the mirror

This post was supposed to appear hours ago but Blogger seems to be acting up today. In any case, here are three 'short takes' about the media that are progressively more depressing. But, on the bright side, there is an update at the end.

L.A. Times: James Rainey wonders about how many more towns are concealing fat cat salaries for government officials now that the media is cutting back its own reporting capabilities.

A story last week in The Times revealed leaders of the working-class city get paid like a bunch of white-shoe lawyers: City Manager Robert Rizzo makes more than $787,000 a year, Police Chief Randy Adams $457,000 and most of the City Council close to $100,000 each . . .

With newspapers shrinking and new media alternatives slow to step into the void, one has to wonder how many other City Halls conceal Bell-sized sleaze. How many other city officials have scrimped on services to fatten their paychecks? How many have cut lucrative contracts to benefit friends and relatives? Which developers got sweetheart deals for campaign cash? The Feed blog looks at "How ideologically slanted media organizations are hurting America".

This is what happens when ideologically-focused noise machines are treated like real news outlets.

The sad case of Shirley Sherrod -- a black woman whose story of overcoming her own prejudice was perverted into a false example of racism by a media savvy conservative activist -- provides an important lesson for journalists and news consumers, if we're willing to heed it.

Media Matters: Joe Strupp, former senior editor at E&P caught up with Shirley Sherrod and let her do the talking.

Sherrod, 62, said her first reaction was shock that, after a career working for civil rights and as the daughter of a father murdered by racists, she would be seen in such a terrible light.

"To have people say that I was such a racist was unbelievable," she said of the fallout from the video and Fox coverage. "My whole life, if you look into what I have done, my father was murdered in 1965. If you look at all of us, we all hurt with that and we got involved into the movement and channeled our effort into good, instead of hating.

"I am getting hate calls and e-mails at this point. I got one call last night at my house at 12:30 a.m. that said 'you lost your job, good for you' and 'bitch' There are people out there who will believe that I am a racist person, even though the story is getting out there."

Update: The White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has issued an apology to Shirley Sharrod and states that Agriculture Sec. Vilsack will be attempting to get a hold of Sharrod to apologize and discuss "next steps".

In the meantime, what can be said about the state of media in America? This site is about New Media and the business of modern publishing, not content. But as someone who has been a journalist, and has lead editorial departments as a publisher, I can not help but feel saddened by the state of American journalism. This is one of the reasons I feel that those who believe that reporters and editors will lead the media business out of the wilderness it finds itself in now are naive. The fourth estate is in trouble and must get its own house in order before it starts telling others involved in the media business what the future will be.

I continue to be encouraged that there is new blood entering our industry. They may be developers, they may be entrepreneurs, they may be inexperienced, and they may be naive, but they offer the press a new perspective, and most importantly, they are closer to our readers than any reporter at Fox News or MSNBC, or the WaPo or Times, apparently.