State of the Union: Democracy and the Web Press

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Connecting the Dots
by Glynn Wilson

I almost lost my breakfast in my plate as I watched CNN’s John King interview Dick Cheney on his “State of the Union” show this Sunday. It made me want to get rid of my television set, reinforcing an idea that seems to be growing among the American population.

As newspaper circulation continues in free fall and as we begin to acknowledge that broadcast news let us down as well as newspaper reporting over the past eight years, more and more I’m hearing people say they would rather have a high speed Internet connection than a cable TV package or a newspaper subscription any day.

I mean who gives a damn what Cheney has to say at this point? Is he the only guest King could get to assess the state of the nation? What a joke.

More and more young people are getting their view of the world from shows such as the Daily Show on Comedy Central, where this week Jon Daily took on Jim Cramer of CNBC for his failed coverage of the economic meltdown. This is a video series worth watching in case you missed it.

Jim Cramer in Daily Show Showdown

It’s no wonder newspapers are dying. As their circulations fall and they lay off more news workers, they become even less interesting.

If you are interested in catching the latest stories on the dying newspaper industry, check out these recent stories from Reuters and Editor and Publisher magazine.

U.S. newspaper circulation declines accelerate

The Rocky Mountain News may be the biggest U.S. newspaper to fold in a long time, but…

Look at the latest figures for newspaper circulation in Alabama. Then compare our online readership numbers to newspapers with a long history such as the Tuscaloosa News (31,000), the Anniston Star (23,000) and the Decatur Daily (20,000).

Last week, while I was on the road doing original reporting on several important stories out of East Tennessee, 36,685 unique visitors (readers) hit our site and viewed 57,976 pages.

So after only four years in business, we have more readers than any of the medium-sized newspapers in this state. One of the reasons may be the strength of our content and the power of our voice verses the weak kneed content of the newspapers.

None of the newspapers in Alabama do much in the way of investigative journalism, except for the Newhouse papers in Birmingham and Mobile, and they only investigate Democrats.

Newspaper reporters have been playing it safe to keep their jobs for so long, it becomes a self-fulfilling deathwatch to observe their free-fall. It would be nice to see a single newspaper company decide to take a more aggressive approach to their survival strategy.

Unfortunately, all I see is even more playing it safe. There is not a single story worth reading and linking to in any Alabama newspaper today, and believe me, I checked around. It’s sad and pathetic.

This gives me no great pleasure to report, since I am a firm believer in the fact that for American democracy to survive, a free press is a must. But as you can see from our news page today, we turned to the online only Alternet for some interesting and important Sunday stories since we couldn’t find anything of particular interest on the wires or in the New York Times or Washington Post.

More Than Race, the South is About Exploiting Workers

Economic Mess May Kill 100,000 Non-Profits

Financial Crisis Might Lead to Legal Pot

One of the reasons I took a look at this issue for a Sunday column today is because I have been asked to speak at a journalism conference in April on the future of Democracy and the Web Press in Arkansas. My paper will be posted here when the time comes, and the trip will give me another opportunity to go camping and conduct some Mobile Journalism (MoJo) from the road.

This road trip will include a visit to the Big Woods of Arkansas, where the search for the illusive ivory-billed woodpecker is still underway.

Stay tuned. The newspapers and TV news may suck, but Democracy will survive — and the news will get covered, at least on the Web Press.

© 2009 – 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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