As you can imagine, reaction has been quick in coming from Houston's media observers:
Unca Darrell echoes my lament here:
This is sad news. If it continues -- and there is little evidence that it won't -- more local journalists will soon find themselves on the street and more news beats will go dark.Of course, the best journalists might find work with the emerging non-profit outlets that are starting to spring up, but most of those are tightly focused organizations that lack the mission statement to provide the in-depth, meaningful, local coverage that made newspapers what they are.
It should be noted that who they are is still better off than some who meet the ire of their opinion-makers. Not as great as they were during the salad days for sure, but still doing better than some. Unfortunately (for them) "better than some" doesn't work in today's market place, so government subsidies are being seriously considered. In a sane world, this idea would be laughed out of the room.
Sanity has been the first casualty in the current war over the future of the media. The Right-wing is hell-bent to continue their "liberal bias" crusade, while the Left-wing savors the thought of a new-media beholden to Government, much like they envision the new-economy. For the rest of us, main-stream Republicans, Democrats and Moderates all, the very idea of Government-subsidized media runs counter to the traditional American stereotype of media as independent, tough-minded watchdog.
What Houston has is, probably, an overly romanticized vision of the past. Conventional history is that the ChronBlog has always been more about snuggling up to the "in" crowd than they have been focused on reporting on the warts (and pet programs) of said movers and shakers. All of this has resulted in big stories, such as the issue of City finances, being discussed on the margins instead of in the public eye where serious issues belong. Agree or disagree with the analysis of Lemer, Farb & Roberts, their concerns should have received a public airing in the most recent Mayoral campaign. Instead, Houston has been stuck with SAM Awards proffered up by political observers with an affinity for "I" in Mayoral reports & arguments about buying minority votes provided by multi-beat reporter Bradley Olson.
Hmmm...staffing cuts in the newsroom and sub-par vetting of Mayoral candidates.....
Think the two may be related?
If only some writers were given wider coverage....maybe then this race would have a pulse?*
Until that happens Houston is a lot poorer without a large public forum reporting a variety of perspectives and it seems that more and more people are deciding this is true by voting with their pocketbooks. That's too bad.**
*Slampo being just one example of entertaining Mayoral coverage being presented by amateur bloggers. There are a lot more, as well as some excellent Mayoral coverage by Texas Watchdog. The Chronblog has some as well, but Olsen and Snyder are just two reporters trying to cover the entire ballot. That's impossible
**Because, really, despite it all, my goal is to see a healthy, thriving ChronBlog offering up the public service they aspire to in the words of those on the masthead.