Another Death Sentence for Journalism

NY Times media columnist David Carr told a sad tale today. It started out with him telling how the city of Chicago had just paid out $20 million to settle lawsuits by four former condemned men who had been tortured by police.

He mentioned that, in essence, because of these men being tortured into confessing capital crimes, the death penalty for Illinois had been put on hold in Illinois by former Governor George Ryan.

And he told the story that these men, and others like them, had been freed based on the reporting of John Conroy of the Chicago Reader.

And then, Carr reported that Conroy and three others had just been laid off by the new owners of the Reader. The Reader’s companion paper, The Washington City Paper, where Carr was once editor, had also laid off five newsroom reporters. Declining revenue and the need to cut costs were cited, as usual.

Good thing it happened last week, instead of a few years ago, or those men would be dead, and several Chicago police would have gotten away with murder.

Now it’s journalism that’s on death row. It’s been put there by readers who don’t demand investigative work, and advertisers who don’t want anything to do with any story that involves more in depth reporting that asking people where they get their favorite hamburger.

It’s only a matter of time. Soon we’ll have nothing but insipid city mags and so called newspapers whose business model doesn’t include any editorial that doesn’t pander to the lowest expectations of readers and the highest ones of advertisers. Add that to all the advertisers being sucked away from the actual content providers by the likes of Google, and it won’t be long until even more publishers push the plungers on their staffs.