The demise of regional journalism…Part 1

The other day I was trolling through the website of the National Council for the Training of Journalists on the lookout for anything they might teach about enterprise reporting or investigative journalism.

While I wasn’t able to turn up anything along those lines, I did find an organization dedicated to training reporters and editors in a very proscribed, orderly fashion, all thoroughly steeped in the fundamentals of covering a story, writing about it and then editing the piece.

All good stuff I suppose, but it left me wondering if there is somewhere where grizzled old editors still have the opportunity to beat their youthful apprentices over the head to get to the bottom of a story, to dig, to ferret out the documents, to ask the tough questions; in short, to exercise the necessary degree of enterprise in order to actually educate the public rather than just decypher press releases for them.

Those kind of thoughts are on my mind today as I look out over the world of regional journalism — both in the UK and the United States.

There was a time when newspapers in the smaller urban centers of both countries were just as aggressive, ruthless and dogged as their big city cousins.

Alas, such is not the case any longer.

With few exceptions, regional journalism has become a wasteland in terms of what used to pass as real reporting.

The regional papers today are content to cover the passing parade, believing it to be all that is necessary to fulfill their function in life.

I don’t see hard questions being asked; I see no investigative journalism, I see no objective analysis. Instead I see press releases being rewritten, breaking news covered in the most cursory manner and an editorial page spirit that places newspapers in the position of being boosters for the regions they cover, not independent analysts as they should be.

There are serious ramifications to this situation. Whenever the ruling elite — politicians, business people, police — believe there’s no one looking over their shoulder they tend to consolidate their power, oftentimes in ways that’s not in the best interests of the public. But then again, the public will never know that because no one is around to inform them.

I intend to keep looking at this situation and offering more specific anecdotes to support my contention while also looking for positive examples because I have to believe they’re out there.

And in the meantime, I will keep looking for those grizzled old editors. Where are they when we need them?

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