Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Back To Boulder

I'm attending the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder, Colorado, for the third year.  (If you're in town, here's the schedule of my panel appearances for the rest of the week.)

My Monday session -- "New  Tools, Old Traditions: A Renaissance in Journalism" -- included a fellow panelist taking me to task for saying that the New York Times, Post and Daily News were equivalent newspapers. In fact, I said that those three papers were fortunate to have single proprietor/family-based ownership -- instead of generic corporate control.  Yes, The Post is part of Newscorp, but it was the first US media entity that Rupert Murdoch purchased -- back in 1977.  I think it -- like the News under Zuckerman and the Times as held by the Sulzberger/Ochs families for decades -- has a more coherent vision than many larger papers that have been gobbled up by larger corporate organizations. 

In any event, lefty journalist Robert Dreyfuss (a former editor of The American Prospect) declared that the Post and News were "fish wrap" compared to the Times. He dismissed classic headlines like The Post's "Headless Body Found In Topless Bar" (1983) and the News' "Ford To City: Drop Dead" (1975). By definition broadsheet papers and tabloids are different entities, with formats that lend themselves to different ways of approaching and reporting the news.  That doesn't mean that they don't each have their place in the daily newspaper world.  

My problem with Dreyfuss' cavalier condemnation of tabloids is that he ignored the fact that the News headline he dismissed was actually about a major significant story of the time -- the federal government under then President Gerald Ford refusing to bail out a bankrupt New York City.  That was a decision that led to a series of events that have resonance in today's financial crisis. People remember that headline -- not because it was (in modern parlance) "snarky." People remember it because it perfectly summarized a seminal moment in the city's life.  Meanwhile, if anyone can remember what the Times' headline on that story was that day, please get back to me.

Rather than just condemning tabloid-format newspapers, Mr. Dreyfuss might want to consider that they have an important role to play and that journalists should be eagerly encouraging any format that keeps the daily newspaper alive in some respect.  

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