Maybe not, according to Tom Stites, a former editor at The New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune and more, who delivered a wake-up call at the Media Giraffe conference last week. "Is media performance democracy's critical issue?" was his title, and now a summary, a full text with pictures and a video of the talk are online.
His examples were taken from a single day's Boston Globe... He showed slides of some of that day's stories after asking the audience to do some role-playing:
"Imagine with me that you're a 39-year-old single mother of three
daughters. You live in East Boston and ride the Blue Line to work long
and unpredictable hours in a retail job near Downtown Crossing. One
daughter is grown and married, one is living at home and working part
time while attending a community college, and the third is still in
high school. Your family has no health insurance. You shop, sparingly
and carefully, at Wal-Mart. Now and then, when you can afford it, you
His question -- were the clippings (online at the end of his speech text) samples from "a newspaper that understands you (that single Mom) and presents news in a way that[base ']s relevant to your life"? Or were they pages from a product aimed only at the lobster-dinner and Boston Symphony Orchestra set -- because that's who the paper's advertisers cater to?
(I'm not sure what the Knoxville counterpart would be, but I'll try to keep that lady in mind...)
"Is there any wonder," Stites asked, "that less affluent Americans have abandoned newspapers and are angry at the press? They've abandoned newspapers -- the primary source of serious reporting -- because the newspapers have abandoned them."
Stites' recommendation is for journalists to look back at Joseph Pulitzer's statement of purpose, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Platform, which pledged to...
...always fight for progress and reform, Stites had a lot more to say (10 pages in my fine-print print-out), and a healthy discussion is underway in the comments on the Citmedia.org copy of his text, and on blogs linked to it -- including a discussion of whether blogs, Christian radio or FoxNews are any better ways to reach that mother-of-three between trips to Wal-Mart. Take a look, and join the conversation over there.
never tolerate injustice or
always fight demagogues of all parties,
never belong to any
always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers,
lack sympathy with the poor,
always remain devoted to the public
never be satisfied with merely printing news,
never be afraid to attack wrong,
predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.
More blogger comments from the conference at mgp2006 and