World news in the San Francisco Bay Area provides a slightly different profile from that he gives. In my Silicon Valley neighborhood, there is a significant reluctance to subscribe to cable (poor reception in some locales). An incidental benefit is that broader news and foreign-language offerings are available on digital TV, which has increased the number of public channels from three to ten over the past two years.
KCSM (San Mateo) holds the strongest hand for (non-US) world services. In addition to the BBC (recently forced to contract its world service) and PBS, its evening offerings also include Deutsche Welle (the go-to place for the Euro crisis), NHK World News (riveting coverage of the Sendai earthquake and its aftermath; excellent pan-Asian review on Thursdays), Al Jazeera (on-the-spot coverage of the Arab Spring), and Russia Today (nothing topical ofnote) on weekdays. A local commercial channel carries CCTV and Xinhua News.
Given the will of Congress and the well-publicized collapse of foreign-language teaching in many US institutions of higher learning, it is hard to see how the US could marshal the resources to mount a competitive world service in the foreseeable future. The percentage of funding that PBS receives from government resources is minuscule. One would need to start from scratch. NPR gives a whole different slant to the news and sustains a much broader array of one-off features capturing real life in America.
What is more conspicuously missing in the Bay Area (and much of the rest of the US) is coverage of local and state government news of any merit. Sound-bite TV journalism, given its obsessions with police blotters, gay rights, and presidential sweepstakes, robs us of any knowledge of budgetary, legislative, educational, and environmental issues in Sacramento and in our local communities. The collapse of in-depth reporting, and of newspaper reading as a daily habit of the educated, doom us to poorly drafted, self-serving legislation at every level of government. Were I in a position to choose between a US-branded world service and beefed-up state and local coverage, I would opt for the latter.
Comment posted on cjr.org
“John Paton’s Big Bet” by Lauren Kirchner (CJR, July/August) is a bold illustration of the struggle that newspapers face. But it is a far cry from the sober, responsible writing that is the hallmark of the Columbia Journalism Review. Paton, the publisher of the recently out-of-bankruptcy Journal Register Company, has undertaken a survival/growth plan that may be fit for a media company at the bottom of the heap, but it is hardly an example for aspiring journalists. The article is full of statistical hocus pocus that is, unfortunately, prevalent in much of recent writing about the brave new world of digital. Paton’s idea is that income from digital will make up the loss of revenue from the traditional print editions. But the statistics, mostly in comparative percentages without related dollar figures, are not convincing. More disturbing is Paton’s prescription for replacing traditional professional writing with writing from unpaid or low-paid outside contributors.
Editor and publisher
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The disconnect CJR writes about in its September/October editorial I see regularly in the New York Times’s news articles and business reports—both factual and analytical disconnects. Social Security-only folks are seldom mentioned in detail. People earning $25K to $50K seldom fit in their reports. They can’t be included simply because they can’t afford the items the reporter talks about. Recently, CNN talked with senior women on Social Security but they were from Palm Springs. Poor? The only “poor” one received her Social Security and worked thirty-six hours a week. Our politicians, including President Obama, also don’t get down to the nitty-gritty of the low middle class or poor, perhaps because they haven’t experienced true poverty. The same goes for most reporters. We need more of them to care about the lives of the poor and bring their stories into our nation’s conscience.
San Jose, Calif.
In Nathan Deuel’s story, “Life Near the Center of the Story” (CJR, July/August), about freelance journalists living in Istanbul, we misspelled Monique Jaques’s name. We apologize.
Elizabeth Jensen’s piece about the weak news culture of public television, “Big Bird to the Rescue?” (CJR, July/August), reported that the PBS NewsHour “never paid local stations even a nominal fee for content.” While Jensen was referring to payments to local stations for local work as a way of encouraging local coverage, it is worth noting that the PBS NewsHour did base reporters at a handful of local public stations between 1984 and 2008, and used their work on the program.
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