On journalism and capitalism
Aspen Times publisher Samantha Johnston revealed most publishers don’t have journalism degrees in her Ask the Publisher column (“Who’s on first? Defining our roles in the newsrooms,” April 19, aspentimes.com). Instead, the person on the top rung of the newspaper ladder outside of the board of directors of whatever communications conglomerate owns the paper is more likely to have a background in business/advertising.
Perhaps that’s what’s wrong with the print media. It’s a classic case of misguided motivations so endemic of our capitalist society.
With an AB in journalism from Indiana University ’73, I can attest the overriding objective you’re taught is to report the news fairly and accurately. I had an MBA candidate for a roommate and it was obvious he was learning how to turn a profit.
The two goals can come into conflict. If, for example, a reporter digs up a story where one of the paper’s major advertisers was involved in malfeasance, the publisher might spike that piece thinking about the paper’s bottom line.
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Like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve been watching quite a few old movies recently. I saw one of my all-time faves, the 1976 film “Network.” That’s where renowned screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky tells us how corporations and capitalism have ruined television network news.
The execs of a low-rated network decide to keep a lunatic anchorman on the air because the ratings peaked during his rantings. Ratings are what advertising is to the newspapers. The higher the market share a television program has, the more the network can charge for commercials.
Ms. Johnston says she has a degree in technical journalism. Writing instruction manuals isn’t reporting the news, Samantha. You need to get down and grub with the news hawks and separate yourself as much as you possible from Swift Communications.
Fred Malo Jr.
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