Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What Would/Will We Do Without the Star to Kick Around?

Bloggers have a bit of a love/hate thing with the professional press. Most of us love to criticize the lapses in accuracy, judgment, and ethics we find in the Star, and the Star certainly keeps us well-supplied with targets. Some bloggers even act as though they are competing with the real journalists, claiming "scoop" status when they rush to post a rumor, fabrication, or red herring.

The thing is, bloggers can be decent pundits, but they are terrible reporters.

Real reporters get sources on the record, confirm facts, and publish carefully. A mistake counts as a black mark on a reporter's record, and a series of mistakes results in termination.

Mistakes aren't a big deal in the blog world - in fact, if they drive traffic, they are desirable. Reporting that very well-informed sources say one thing and then reporting something totally different on the same afternoon is all in a day's blogging for so-called "citizen journalists", while a real journalist would call it "termination day". If I publish a headline today claiming that Gloria Squitiro is leaving City Hall to work for Jeff Roe, I'll get a few thousand extra hits, and maybe even force them to spend their time correcting my fabrication. While I might fear that regular reporting of falsehoods would damage my credibility to such an extent that smart readers would begin to avoid my site, we all know that it's okay to be consistently wrong as long as we're sensationalistic, and, if we happen to be correct once in a great while, we can even be viewed as credible sources, garnering more attention still.

Truthfully, bloggers, even more than more news-aware Kansas Citians, depend on the KC Star for the vast majority of raw material. No blogger has the time, money or dedication to consistently attend simultaneous meetings at the County Courthouse, City Hall, and Jefferson City, while working on a multi-page feature story. Instead, we sit back and wait for the Star to publish the facts, and then we jump in to put things into our preferred context.

I recently had a friend tell me he doesn't bother subscribing to the Star anymore, because he gets all the local news he needs online. He meant it as a statement of support for the importance of the blogosphere, but it bothered me to hear his decision to opt out of supporting the real reporting we all need to function as citizens.

As a blogger, I'm frightened to see the cutbacks at the Star. If the Star disappears, we all will be more ignorant. Already, as the Star diminishes with cutbacks, we are missing out on stories that deserve our attention. Have you seen any robust reporting on the Jackson County legislature's tampering with the Ethics Code? There was a time when it would be on the lips of all concerned citizens, but now it's a footnote that hardly raises an eyebrow.

It's true that we can live without the Star. I can publish more stories about beer and local restaurants, and maybe even pass on a bit of political information I pick up over lunch or at a cocktail party. I already publish better political analysis than Helling or Kraske, so that would be no loss.

But if you think you can do without the Star because you get all the local news you need from the blogs, you're horribly mistaken. You're still getting your local news from the Star - it's just getting filtered by bloggers, or you're dependent on the Star's website.

While you might think you're kind of clever because you're not having to paying for it, you're going to wind up paying for it if the Star's fortunes do not turn around. The difference is, your payment will go to support graft and corruption in our government and industries, rather than to a stable of good investigative journalists, who pay attention to credibility and accuracy. And don't count on the blogs to take care of you then.

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13 Comments:

Anonymous SSideDem said...

I just thought that I should probably stop by and see how Dan was doing and I am glad I did.

Great post Dan.

I really think The Star has been falling since the Times shut down, but that does not mean I do not get the paper.

Because of my business success I spend most of my time on a wonderful island now but I still have subscription sent out to me. I grind my teeth at the liberal bias but it is important for a City to have a paper. It is important. I still like to see who is getting sued, married, divorced and forclosed upon and you just do not get coverage of all those topics online.

12/09/2008 8:42 AM  
Anonymous Lance said...

Dan, your position assumes that there is no other person or group that would offer a "dead tree" product in the absence of the Star.

McClatchy has effectively monopolized the "newspaper" market here in KC but if they cease to maintain that monopoly another publisher will provide a product to fill that void until the business model becomes unprofitable.

12/09/2008 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Westport said...

Congrats Dan, as long as you have the support of SSideDem for your retrograde ideas you are never alone. You have NAZIs, Klansmen, the Catholic League and other right wing kooks goose stepping by your side.

By the way, do you have any smudge stick recipes?

12/09/2008 10:17 AM  
Anonymous Kingsfield said...

Westport - what is retrograde about worrying about the survival of the Star? I think this post did a good job of pointing out the stupidity of blog egos.

12/09/2008 11:50 AM  
Blogger I Travel for JOOLS said...

The other day I was watching a C-span covered House Hearing and the congresswoman referred a NY Times Article to be made a part of the official record. At the time I was thinking the credibility of that newspaper article better be darn good considering the impact it was having.

Newspapers do have a distinctive role and responsibility. I don't see how we can do without them in some fashion. I expect they will start charging internet subscription fees to stay alive. I don't know of a single blog I'd trust as much as the newspapers simply because they don't have the same standards.

The whole world as we know it seems to be changing at one time...kinda scary and exciting at the same time.

12/09/2008 12:51 PM  
Blogger ryan said...

It is true that newspapers provide content for non-subscribing surfers to enjoy either on the paper's web site or filtered through bloggers. What's interesting--and foolish--is that they have continued for all these years to operate under the same "dead tree" business model, when there is no reason they couldn't send reporters to cover the same stories and publish strictly online, forgoing the massive expensive of print publishing.

Papers have never made money off subscription fees, advertising has always been their bread and butter. Publishing an online-only newspaper does nothing but save enormous stacks of cash that would otherwise be tossed on someone's porch and used to start a BBQ grill. The Christian Science Monitor gets it. Salon gets it. McClatchy, however, does not.

That $200 million printing press sure looks like a stupid idea now, though.

12/09/2008 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone here Joe's interview on KMBZ? (Would they be the radio station of record?)

"that stuff doesn't matter, the most import thing is the volunteer fight"

"the goal was to get the mayor to work three days a week so he has time to build his consulting business"

didn't like violation campaign laws.

I can't wait to hear Dan's spin.

12/09/2008 9:04 PM  
Blogger craig said...

Not really worried. If the Star folds it will just open up more room for a better newspaper, with some integrity. The Examiner.

12/09/2008 9:39 PM  
Anonymous The Last Goat said...

Craig you are the dumbest sack of fecal matter on the planet next to the Governor of Illinois. The Examiner is an advertising rag. If you think that is journalism, no wonder you are Republican.

12/09/2008 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree that the KC Star is the only media outlet with the staff to cover a wide variety of issues, it should also be noted it also dictates news to readers.
As an example, a local Web site, Bottom Line Communications, was the only one to list Star employees who have been let go. As a Star reader all of a sudden writers like Hearne Christopher are simply gone, but the Star never says a word.
The Star is a valuable resource, but readers are also tired about how it filters the news.

12/10/2008 8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one with a brain ever read Hearne's gossip column.

12/10/2008 10:34 AM  
Blogger Capt. Geoffrey Spaulding said...

Sorry- there are NO STAR filters on any of these 16 scanners....

12/10/2008 2:07 PM  
Blogger craig said...

Goat roper,
Thanks for your input. Crawl back in your hole and don't come back out until I tell you that you can.

12/10/2008 6:35 PM  

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