Submitted by Roldo on Tue, 12/02/2008 - 11:52.

It may seem odd that there’s so much attention paid to those being laid off at the Plain Dealer when so many others are losing their jobs by the hundreds and by the thousands.

However, there is something different about the news media because of the importance of news to a democracy. We are dependent upon these sources for the information as citizens.

We need the products produced by workers, however, the work product produce by news gatherers provide the fodder of community decision-making.

The truth is that the mainstream media provide much of the information that allows the public insight into what’s going in their communities. Even if the information is shaded – in my long experience – to the status quo and to the benefit of unelected and unknown people who make decisions for the rest of us, without it we are blind to the actions that affect our daily lives.

I can remember when Cleveland City Hall, where I reported for years, would be crowded with reporters not only from the Plain Dealer and Press but numerous radio stations and TV news operations. Now, there are reports that even the Plain Dealer will staff City Hall with a single reporter. The trend even when I left covering City Hall in 2004 was that PD reporters wouldn’t be at hearings that in the past would be staffed not only by the PD but the Press with more than a single reporter.

The need for an alternative source of gathering the everyday news from the many governmental and private entities grows daily.

Local television news also has experienced cutbacks in news staffs.
Channel 3, WKYC-TV, for example, has or will lose shortly lose some of its veteran reporters, including anchor Tim White, long-time newsman Obie Shelton, Bill Safos, Lydia Esparra and Jennifer Murphy.

Channel 8, WJW-TV has shed Gary Stromberg, Dray Clark, Gary Liberatore and numerous people who work behind the scenes of the news operation.

Now we are hearing cost cutting talk that there may be a combining of news staffs of local TV stations. It has already happened in Youngstown, I’m told with ABC and CBS competing stations combining operations.

Ch. 19 and Ch. 4 here have combined news operations but they have a common ownership.

“The grand old days of TV news are over,” said one veteran TV newsman. He also noted that as the stations rid themselves of higher paid staffers the owners are not putting those savings back into the news staffs.

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Fourth Estate halved

Thank you, Roldo, for reporting on the current (deteriorating) media. Your post is the very embodiment of what we need - and are rapidly losing - people with connections to gather information, observe what decisions/actions occur, compare this to what is needed, and project results. Agree, disagree, or just follow along - we rely on the media to protect our democracy.
Ed Hauser as a citizen stood in for many a (missing) reporter. The battle-weary survivors of this week's debacle will have to do more with less - less time to research and write, less experience, less corporate media interest in challenging the status quo. We will all be the poorer for it. Well, maybe not all. The powers that be are well served by their PR machines and sound-bite news releases.