For most of my life I was a newspaperman. I took pictures, wrote stories, edited stories, managed the staff and owned or ran several different newspapers, which competed fiercely with the Gazette.
Although I hated the Gazette in every way possible as any fierce competitor would — I also loved them and respected them as honest community journalists that did a wonderful job of covering the community I still live in. Davis Kennedy, Chuck Lyons and Donald Graham may have been my collective nemesis and I theirs (less so), but it wasn’t a battle without consequence. That struggle left the community with a lot of news about every detail of life in this area that you could need or want and it came from a collection of men that may have fought each other tooth and nail, but did it with standards, with honesty, with integrity, and with the principles of our profession always in view.
When I nearly went to jail for withholding my interview notes from the Courts on the Chris Albrecht officer shooting of an innocent woman — every paper lined up behind me that day in court and made it clear, I was their competitor but I was doing the job the right way, and they respected that, and they made sure I was free to continue competing with them the next day — through editorials and front page stories that championed me and the shield law I was using to protect my sources.
The Gazettes and the Washington Post of old, were the benchmark by which I measured myself. If I could beat them to a scoop, I was King for a day. When they beat me, I never forgot it and redoubled my efforts to stay ahead of them next week. At one time, between the Journals, the Express and the Gazettes, (2 or which I owned or ran) this community had real newspaper coverage that went from high school sports to in-depth coverage of the political and business scene all the way out to Annapolis.
All of that is gone.
Replaced by Google and the Internet, which may be inexpensive and ubiquitous, but doesn’t even scratch the surface for vital community news and I think even leaves us all badly misinformed at the national and international level since every business model developed to work with the Internet is basically audience driven.
Democrats watch Democratic TV and read Democratic news sites and Republicans watch Republican TV and read Republican web sites. Since those “reporters” get higher ratings by fashioning their message for a particular audience, partisanship and ad hominem attacks are the new substitute for good reporting, balanced quotes, and fair investigations of wrongdoing.
This is a cancer that will not only hurt just my community, but is already making politics in America so untruthful, so one-sidedly partisan, that the public is literally losing it’s grasp on important issues and their meanings and will soon lose control over their laws and legislators as well. In fact, this has largely already happened.
Politicians no longer fear reporters and their stories about them, they simply go on to a partisan channel or program, lie through their teeth and survive the challenge since news reporters and newspapers no longer have an audience big enough to count.
I used to dream of the day I would be powerful enough, rich enough, and have enough newspapers to drive the damn Gazette out of my backyard. Now, I’m deeply saddened and worried that the loss of this important public asset will mean further decline and trouble for this county I love so much.