Capitol news coverage dying
|By Kyle Melinn|
About the time I was learning to read with “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” Charlie Cain started his career as a Michigan journalist.
There was The Associated Press, UPI. Shoot, even the Lansing State Journal used to care about the Capitol, if you can believe that. At a time before e-mail and faxes, state government actually hired someone to manage the press room. He called reporters when press conferences were happening so nobody missed a story.
When I came to Lansing in 2001, the press corps’ retreat was well under way. The decimated corps must have looked like a rag-tag army in comparison. Nobody, outside of the Michigan Public Radio duo, was using the press room anymore.
A framed collage of pictures from the days of yore — reporters making funny faces, laughing, doing work — hung on the wall, warping. The boxes where PR types leave press releases for reporters hadn’t been cleaned out for weeks.
Booth went from a Lansing bureau of at least four reporters to one. Detroit television media seem to make it to the capital city when they’re lost.
The person who knows more about Lansing than anyone, Tim Skubick, was cut from Lansing’s TV 10 and the Lansing State Journal. Budget concerns were being cited both times.
“Traditional media is in retreat or dying, depending on who you talk to,” Martin said. “It’s dangerous and sad at the same time.”
Keep these facts in mind: Three dozen newspapers are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Ann Arbor News is converting to a slimmed-down twiceweekly publication. The number of Facebook accounts by people older than 35 doubled between January and March this year.
The new media is swooping in to pick at the news carnage, but what kind of journalistic background does Joe “Tweeter” have?
Political blogs are great tools to stoke the fires of the true-believers. They’re not an objective source for news, nor do they pretend to be.
Until someone figures out how to make money hiring real journalists to cover state government, the retreat will continue. Posting a story on the Internet is the easy part. Paying the journalist to research the story and write the story is the hard part.
In the meantime, state leaders are talking about a new graduated income tax, a reformed gas tax, a new sales tax on services, the early release of 3,500 prisoners, cuts on health care for the poor in the context of a budget hole that’s just as big as the one that shut down government for four hours in 2007.
Folks in Michigan want to know what’s going on. But how many journalists will be left to tell them?
(Kyle Melinn is the editor at the MIRS newsletter. His column runs weekly. Write him at melinn@lansingcitypulse. com.)