Join 3,418 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Merry Christmas, Mayor Daley
December 11, 2007 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Last week, the Chicago Reader laid off four of its best journalists: John Conroy (previously), Harold Henderson, Tori Marlan, and Steve Bogira. The cuts almost certainly mark the beginning of the end of the paper's role in Chicago as an investigative force and a corruption watchdog. The New York Times responds with a salute to Conroy and a defense of muckraking's relevance.

Conroy made his name through years of ceaseless investigation into police torture. For the time being, the Reader retains a full online archive of that work.

Henderson's Reader blog (which proclaims him "The World's First Blogger") also remains online.

Marlan's work includes the post mortems "Death of a Scientologist" and "Killed by a Cop Car."

Bogira is the author of the remarkable Courtroom 302, which HBO is developing as a miniseries.
posted by Iridic (25 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
But, I notice that the New York Times didn't respond by *hiring* any of the four or engaging in any muckraking or investigative reporting of its own. Nope, the New York Times is the proud home of anti-investigative reporting as highlighted by their star reporters Judith Miller and Jayson Blair.

The paper of record my ass.
posted by sotonohito at 12:09 PM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


"NaiveFilter" - Who owns Chicago Reader?

Creative Loafing, Inc.? I wonder if there is any connection to the recent sentencing of Conrad Black - he has some interests in Florida if I recall...
posted by jkaczor at 12:11 PM on December 11, 2007


"The smartest Web robot in the world is going to come back dumb if there is nothing out there to crawl across. Thousands of bloggers could type for a millennium and not come up with the kind of deeply reported story that freed innocent men — an effort that takes years of inquiry, deep sources and a touch for making unholy secrets knowable."

That's why I still read the newspaper and the newsmagazines. "MSM." Sorry, bloggers, there are still things they can do that you can't. Thank goodness.
posted by Avenger50 at 12:22 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


The new owner is significant, there have already been people at other levels of the paper quitting or being laid off from jkaczor's link "[the new owner] plans to move the paper's ad and apge design and some other production functions to Atlanta, and may shift printing to Fayetteville, N.C. As for newsroom staff cuts, he hasn't decided."
posted by garlic at 12:23 PM on December 11, 2007


Thousands of bloggers could type for a millennium and not come up with the kind of deeply reported story that freed innocent men — an effort that takes years of inquiry, deep sources and a touch for making unholy secrets knowable.

But not, I notice, pulped trees.
posted by DU at 12:29 PM on December 11, 2007


.
posted by dead_ at 12:31 PM on December 11, 2007


A real tragedy. The Reader was one of the best things about Chicago.
posted by washburn at 12:31 PM on December 11, 2007


This really bums me out. I loved the Reader back when I lived in Chicago. I even subscribed to it for a number of years after I moved to NYC. I didn't do that for the classified listings.
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:38 PM on December 11, 2007


Creative Loafing, Inc.? I wonder if there is any connection to the recent sentencing of Conrad Black - he has some interests in Florida if I recall...

I wouldn't necessarily ascribe malice to Creative Loafing, jkaczor. I think stupidity and a fair amount of greed are adequate to explain the recent gutting. The new boss, Eason is in the ad-selling business, and his route to success in that arena consists of consolidation (hence the lopping of the production staff), cost-cutting (hence the Reader's poorly received redesign), and garish, flippant entertainment coverage. That's the greed part. The stupidity comes into play with CL's all too obvious opinion that the only thing of value the Reader possesses is a brand name that can be exploited to expand the ad-selling to the Midwest.

Of course, quite a bit of the responsibility for the Reader's woes can be laid with its previous owners, whose superstitious fear of the internet (keeping the archives locked behind a lofty paywall; really half-assed attempts at original online content) eventually forced them into a position where they had to sell out to an acquisitive cheapsheet peddler like Eason. (There was a rumor that they might have made a deal with The Stranger, but apparently one of the owners felt left out and quashed it.) Note that the Internet, in the forms of Craiglist, Yahoo, and Google, is still being invoked to excuse editorial fear in the lay offs article.
posted by Iridic at 12:44 PM on December 11, 2007


Despite the happy bullshit spouted by the parties involved, I think it was pretty apparent to reasonable people that the Reader was as good as dead once the Creative Loafing deal went through. This is depressing, but not surprising.

I wonder how long Michael Miner and Ben Joravsky will last. What I'd really like is to see someone snap up some of the Reader casualties and attempt to compete with it, but I don't suppose that's very likely.

And don't get me started on the redesign. With drop shadows on the cover. Sweet merciful Christ.
posted by enn at 12:46 PM on December 11, 2007


Sweetjeezus. Hadn't seen that redesign. Truly to weep for. And "shelter from the mainstream"? God, I wish I hadn't seen this.
posted by washburn at 1:18 PM on December 11, 2007


“I think stupidity and a fair amount of greed are adequate to explain the recent gutting.”

Yeah. Unfortunately that counts (in affect) as well as malice. I don’t know what’s worse, going out and killing frogs directly, or draining the wetland environment so the frogs can’t live there (but not by design, just to build your condos).
I liked reading the reader sometimes. The stories were absorbing.
I don’t know why journalism (now) has to appeal to younger readers by being purile (I’m thinking of the various “red” whatevers and the beep, etc. in Chicago papers).
Reminds me of Dr. Evil saying “I’m hip” and trying to do the Macarena to bond with Scott.
Hey, you kids like the Britany Spears, right?

Plus, nearly every paper now has the same sort of tone and style when they write for younger readers. It’s like reading a novel where every character has the same speech pattern. Ack.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:25 PM on December 11, 2007


In case you haven't seen it, Frontline did a series called "News War" that talked about the Newspaper conglomerates and the whole "Without the newspaper reporter, the Internet wouldn't have news to display" thing. Pretty interesting:

Frontline - News War
posted by cavalier at 1:27 PM on December 11, 2007


They had probably one of the most practical and well-designed weekly papers in the country. I loved reading it. So easy to pick up before you got on the train and read what you needed to read. Now it's a complete mess of a paper, 150 pages falling tabloid-style all over the place, the events and concert listings are buried in the middle of the thing, whereas they used to be right there, big on the front. Bad news, bad news.
posted by Sreiny at 1:29 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sorry, bloggers, there are still things they can do that you can't. Thank goodness.

You're probably right about bloggers not being able to do it all but I can't help but wonder what the point of the "Thank goodness" is. Don't you think we would be better off with more investigative journalism even if it is done by bloggers rather than the decreasing amount being done by newspapers and magazines?
posted by srboisvert at 1:49 PM on December 11, 2007


Don't you think we would be better off with more investigative journalism even if it is done by bloggers rather than the decreasing amount being done by newspapers and magazines?

Point taken. Of course I do. However, the article's argument is that bloggers don't do investigative reporting. They sit in their pajamas and, er, blog.
posted by Avenger50 at 2:17 PM on December 11, 2007


However, the article's argument is that bloggers don't do investigative reporting. They sit in their pajamas and, er, blog.
I don't think that's what the article's argument was at all. The article's argument was that it is important to have investigative journalists who investigate things and that it's a bad thing that good, local investigative reporters are being laid off. A tiny little sub-point was that bloggers can't replace investigative journalists, which is not something that very many bloggers would dispute. This really isn't about the laziness or shittiness of bloggers. It's about something a lot bigger and more important than that, which is the complete collapse of the American news media, and especially the local media. If you are interested in anything but celebrities, "news you can use" stories about overblown threats to your children's health and safety, horse race stories about political campaigns that actually don't tell you much about the candidates, and spectacular car crashes and/or murders with photogenic victims, you are SOL in America, because that's what the "news" is covering these days. This is bad for our culture and our democracy, and it's worth discussing what, if anything, we can do to fix it. Grind your little axe somewhere else.
posted by craichead at 3:27 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]



We need to figure out a way to pay for local and national investigative and analytical reporting. It can't all be funded by foundations with particular agendas and newspapers and magazines aren't putting the kind of money into it that needs to be there. Bloggers can't do it without getting paid for it unless they are independently wealthy enough to have the time to spend on all the tedious digging and interviews and research it takes to get anywhere. TV rarely does its own investigations for legal reasons, preferring to take off from investigations by print journalists (with some exceptions). Publications aren't paying freelancers enough to make a living at it, generally.

People are seeming to finally get that this stuff is important and that not all of us journalists are Britney-Spears-chasing scumsuckers. But we still haven't gotten a model that pays for as much long-form investigative and analytical journalism as is needed.

Lots of smart people are thinking about it-- as evidenced by the repeated posts on this topic here and articles in many other places. And groups like ProPublica.org are trying to deal with it.

But no one seems to have solved it yet-- though I am hopeful that all this attention will make a difference.
posted by Maias at 4:09 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I notice that the New York Times didn't respond by *hiring* any of the four

the very same day? how many senior job interviews at large organizations have you been to? this kind of "if you don't like it, shut up" rhetoric is idiotic.

these guys will be fine. they are fine journalists and will find an appropriate employer, if desired. who knows, maybe it'll even be the nyt or wapo, which you seem to think is their civic duty.

sheesh.
posted by krautland at 4:45 PM on December 11, 2007


I notice that the New York Times didn't respond by *hiring* any of the four

Oh, that's the standard, then? I notice you didn't hire them, either. What an asinine criticism.

I think stupidity and a fair amount of greed are adequate to explain the recent gutting.

Oh, that old saw. Maybe Craig Newmark explains it just fine. Certainly, it isn't just the Reader who's feeling the gradual loss of the classifieds business.

They had probably one of the most practical and well-designed weekly papers in the country. I loved reading it. So easy to pick up before you got on the train and read what you needed to read. Now it's a complete mess of a paper

The new design may or may not be a mess (I haven't held one in my hands), but I would never have called the old, hefty multi-section Reader an "easy" paper to read, especially on the train. Now, the suburban version, the Reader's Guide, that was convenient easy to handle. But it only had a fraction of what made the Reader the Reader.
posted by dhartung at 5:53 PM on December 11, 2007


plans to move the paper's ad and apge design and some other production functions to Atlanta,

They already did. For the last issue the local design crew did, they snuck a tiny tiny "goodbye" right above the R in Reader on the front page.
posted by timsteil at 7:26 PM on December 11, 2007


I don't think that's what the article's argument was at all.

Gosh, you're right, craichead. That was just one of the points. Certainly one of the points contributing to "the complete collapse of the American news media."

No axe here. I frankly don't care as much as you do. Just making a little tiny comment.
posted by Avenger50 at 10:00 PM on December 11, 2007


dhartung and the other "well, *you* didn't hire them either" twits.
Oh, that's the standard, then? I notice you didn't hire them, either. What an asinine criticism.
What an asinine comment. Of course I didn't hire them. I'm not a newspaper you jackass. It isn't my job to hire reporters, good or bad.

I'm especially not a newspaper claiming to be the best there is, claiming to be "the paper of record". I'm *especially* not a newspaper claiming to be the best there is which has a habit of hiring non-journalists to write anti-investigative twaddle, such as Judith Miller's breathless, can't wait to spread every lie the Bush administration fed her, cheerleading for a war. I'm not a newspaper that sat on a story that highlighted the awful crap Bush has done because they didn't want to influence the elections with, you know, facts.

And most especially I'm not a crappy excuse for a newspaper writing a hypocritical, bullshit, story about how great the investigative journalists (who they'd never hire, or publish their findings if they were hired) were.

As I said before: paper of record my ass. The New York Times is a pathetic shadow of what a newspaper should be, relying on its former glory in a vain attempt to disguise the fact that its become yet another Fox News clone, and I'm revolted that they'd dare to praise reporters for doing what they won't hire people to do, or publish.

If the Times really liked what those reporters did they'd hire them, or others like them, fund their investigations, and publish the results in a timely fashion. Instead the Times pretends to give a shit, while in fact being part of the problem.
posted by sotonohito at 6:40 AM on December 12, 2007


You know, I have a lot of criticisms of the NY Times, but they do still do investigative reporting. For instance, last week they broke the story about the destroyed CIA interrogation tapes. That's good: it's important that story got out there.

So here's the thing. The Chicago Reader is not anyone's paper of record. It doesn't cover national news, and it's not even the paper of record in Chicago. But it has done, over the years, really important reporting in Chicago. The NYT wasn't going to cover the Chicago police torture situation, because it didn't start out as a national story. In order for that story to come to light, there had to be a good reporter on the ground in Chicago, paying attention to a pattern of allegations of abuse that would have bored the socks off of someone sitting in New York looking for a national story. That's not the job of the New York Times; it's the job of the local Chicago media. To me, this isn't an issue about the shittiness of the NYTimes, any more than it's an issue about the shitiness of bloggers. It's about the fact that nobody can figure out how to finance investigative journalism, unless it's big national stories that are being broken by the "papers of record." And that's not a lot of comfort to those of us who live in flyover territory. If there's corruption in Tulsa, the citizens of Tulsa ought to find out about it, and that requires journalists in Tulsa who have the resources to investigate the story. We can't just rely on two or three papers on the East Coast to do all our reporting for us.
posted by craichead at 8:10 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


btw, the Times, to my knowledge, doesn't call *itself* the paper of record-- it is referred to that way by others but I believe the editors would consider it unseemly if they said that about themselves. They do have the "all the news that fit to print" slogan, however.
posted by Maias at 4:50 PM on December 13, 2007


« Older Atlanta's Theat(er|re) community is unloading...  |  Building... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments