Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sun-Times may speak out again on pols, but finding other ways to influence newspapers across nation

What should we think of our city’s Chicago Sun-Times, where there are hints the top management may start speaking out on who should get to be our pols?

But it would also seem that the actions of the Sun-Times are now spreading to the business practices of other publications – as they now have company among the ranks of publications that don’t feel the need to have real photographers on staff.

THE PUBLICATION IN question is the Times Herald-Record, an 80,000-circulation newspaper out of Middletown, N.Y. The Gate House Media company laid off several staffers at its publications out east, and let go all four of their full-time photographers at the Middletown paper.

Unlike the jokes that now occur with Sun-Times and their suburban sister papers having their reporters use their cellphones to take pictures for publication, the Middletown paper says it will use photos from freelance photographers.

Perhaps they think they can get their existing photographers to remain on duty without having to pay them a regular salary with the benefits typically expected of a job!

It makes me wonder how long it will be before this trend backlashes back to the Midwest. Gate House, after all, is the company that owns the newspapers in Springfield, Peoria and Rockford.

WILL THEY TRY to claim that what is good for Middletown will play just as well in Peoria? Is this going to be the Sun-Times’ great contribution to American journalism – relying on extra-cheap images no matter how tawdry they make the paper look?

What I have never comprehended about this shift, no matter where it is done, is that the owners try to defend it as being part of the shift to a digital product. Yet most of the types of media that they envision happening will need to be more reliant on images.

Their “explanation” makes no sense. It really was more honest to read the recent Chicago magazine interview with the Sun-Times where the head guy admitted he had been viewing the photographers’ jobs for a year-and-a-half before they were actually cut.

It seems there are too many people getting into the newsgathering racket these days because they want to pick dry what is left of a newspaper’s financial assets before letting them wither away.

WHICH MAKES ME wonder if the idea that the Sun-Times wants to start endorsing political candidates again is about wanting to assuage the owners’ egos.

Let them be able to speak out for as long as they can keep their publications going.

Because this is a change in policy for the paper – which actually made a point of trying to claim a moral high ground in saying for the 2012 election cycle that they wouldn’t endorse anybody for political office.

Crain’s Chicago Business is now reporting that the paper will soon announce that it is going back to making public picks for government posts. Although the web site that monitors news media is saying that the decision is not final!

MY GUT REACTION is pleasure. Because I always thought it was a bit weasel-ly for the paper to think it was being extra moral in its attitude toward public policy by NOT taking editorial stances prior to Elections Day.

People may not agree with every endorsement. But it comes across as cowardly (in my mind) to not take a stance – which can enlighten readers in terms of understanding a paper’s viewpoint on issues that can help comprehend their attempts at news coverage.

Besides, they also add to a paper’s personality. Would anyone ever pay attention to the Union Leader of Manchester, N.H., if not for the schizophrenic endorsements they have concocted throughout the decades?

Although we run the risk of getting campaign endorsements from a company that thinks they’re somehow improving quality by running smartphone-shot photographs!


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