Friday, February 27, 2009

Hard to feel sorry for complainers in the mainstream media

There is no question that the mainstream news media -- print newspapers, mainly -- is falling on hard times. Recently, the Rocky Mountain News Newspaper closed its doors writing its own front page obituary. A few weeks back, the broadsheet Chicago Tribune that once looked down its long elitist nose at the tabloid Chicago Sun-Times, converted its street sale papers to a -- gasp! -- tabloid that looks exactly like the Chicago Sun-Times.

And last week, mostly mainstream traditional journalists from the print and some broadcast media, plus a handful of online bloggers and members of the growing "New Media," gathered at a conference to discuss the future of journalism. Some reported the meeting turned into a brow-beating session where ivory tower mainstream media tried to lengthen the nose they used to look down upon the "New Media."Of course, the problems of the mainstream media are of their own making. One cause focused on at the journalism conference is the assertion that the New Media is canibalizing from the mainstream media -- stealing content.

Wow. I remember years ago when the mainstream media consisted of two classes, the big city dailies and the smaller community press. The bigshot newspapers used to brag that they owned the media and they frequently stole news fromt he smaller community newspapers. One Tribune reporter told me in the early 1980s that "The news isn't reported unless it is reported in the Chicago Tribune," explaining how he explained the theft of a scoop from the Daily Southtown where I was working.

That was before, of course, the big newspapers gobbled up all the small community newspapers, gutted them, and stole their content and advertising revenues.Now, the New Media is stealing from the mainstream media? The truth is the New Media is helping to keep the media alive.Many of the New Media are in fact former members of the mainstream media, print, radio and TV who blog. Steve Rhodes and I discussed all this during my non-mainstream radio show this morning's radio show.

ANOTHER FACTOR ignored at the conference is the FACT that the mainstream news or traditional news media has defined "diversity" in its narrowest form, focusing only on the traditional minorities (Blacks, Hispanics and Asians) while excluding most other minorities and ethnic groups, including and especially American Arabs who are a growing population in many markets.

In fact, my morning radio show, "Radio Chicagoland" (, shows that there is support from the excluded minority communities like the American Arab community. Most of my ads come from businesses shunned by the mainstream news media. Had the mainstream news media embraced rather than exclude non-traditional minority groups like American Arabs, they might be able to tap that advertising revenue pool. Instead, many non-traditional minority groups boycott the Sun-Times and the Tribune because of the exclusion.

There is also a growing army of two kinds of "New Media," those who are former mainstream journalists (like myself and Steve Rhodes) and those who are "Citizen Journalists" who don't have the professional journalism training but oftentimes have a better determination to get the truth and to fill in the gaps left empty by politics and bias in the mainstream news media.

The New Media is filling the gap in the one area where the gap has always been large, in suburban community news coverage. A group of New Media consisting of Citizen Journalists and former mainstream journalists are working to launch the "Chicagoland News Network" at Watch for its launch.

Things are changing, but not fast enough. It's too bad, especially for the slowly vanishing mainstream daily newspaper. The ink-based print papers are being replaced by pixelized computer screens.

-- Ray Hanania

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