As Newspapers Die, Will Television News Do the Reporting?

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This image appears above Mushnick's column every Sunday in the New York Post's Television insert. Mushnick's weekly scold usually features breaches of journalism ethics.

Phil Mushnick, New York Post sports writer, also writes about Television ethics–or the lack of them–every Sunday in his column, called PRIMETIME, on the back page of the TV Week guide. (Mushnick covered StinkyJournalism’s investigation of CBS Greg Gumbel’s undisclosed infomercials, back in March).

Last Sunday’s column sounds the “alarm” that no one seems to hear regarding the devastating impact of newspaper closings on TV news. Since daily TV news greatly depends upon newspaper reportage, Mushnick wonders, what will happen to Television news as newspapers continue to disappear?

Mushnick asks: “Who’s going to keep a knowing eye on what goes on in the state capitol, or with the local school board, or ask what happened to the money from the Pee Wee Football fundraiser? Who ya gonna call, a web site? Ch. 8 News? A blog?”

As newspapers around the country continue to fail, Mushnick states, “Local TV news will not fill the void that the loss of newspapers creates.”

“Put it this way” Mushnick writes: “Local TV news is not going to seize the opening to form and fund real-deal investigative units, to add a police shack reporter or City Council beat staffer.”  The only real news TV will be able to broadcast, according to Mushnick, are “the weather and the live view from News Chopper/Copter Two-Through-12 of a warehouse fire or an overturned truck.”

Long gone will be the watchdog investigations, both large and small, that newspapers have provided to TV news through history (think Watergate or bribery in local government).

Muchnick underscores the central crisis playing havoc is the same in both print and electronic journalism : “TV also is in financial retreat.”

Mushnick argues, providing an example, that network and cable TV news seem more focused than ever on promoting itself (its other programs, divisions and products), rather than on creating socially responsible content. He concludes, “We’re in the throes of the most alarming news story in the nation’s history” that TV news itself, not just newspapers, is under threat.

“Having fought to win and then sustain our free press,” Mushnick despairs, “Our free press has become too costly; our free press is going out of business.”

In addition to Mushnick’s weekly PRIMETIME Sunday column, Paul Gillin’s blog,  Newspaper Death Watch, whose mission is “Chronicling the Decline of Newspapers and the Rebirth of Journalism” is a good resource to follow on this general topic.

Gillin’s R.I.P. list  (on home page) documents “US metropolitan dailies that have closed since this site was created in March, 2007.” He also has a W.I.P. list (Works In Progress) that tallies “Former print dailies that have adopted hybrid online/print or online-only models.”

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As Newspapers Die, Will Television News Do the Reporting?

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