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Wednesday, September 13, 2023

A Vibrant, Well-Resourced Press is Vital, and Often Total Crap

Anyone who writes on speech and press issues cares deeply about the disappearance of the local press and the often precarious status of even larger city papers. Journalists and former journalists also care about this issue. So do people who actually live in regions that have seen that disappearance. I fall into all three categories. My own employer/university is a multi-billion dollar institution and major power in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. No multi-billion dollar, core civic and educational institution should be without at least one or two beat reporters, one for the beat news and one to do little but investigate it. (And that's not to speak of Tuscaloosa local government, which is no paragon and badly needs an outside minder.) But the Tuscaloosa News, which won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the 2011 tornado before being passed around by various corporate owners, is now essentially a decently staffed sports section that also runs wire service stories. The things the university, and the city, can do on its watch are without number, because it is not in fact watching. So I am indeed on board with all the whistle-sounding on this issue and the efforts to address it.

But there is, I find, a tendency for the writers on these issues to adopt--or be born with--a fairly typically NPR-Cambridge-Ford Foundation establishment earnestness of tone, as conventional as a Brooks Brothers suit, that follows the standard musical score from somber recitation of problems to cheery meliorist proposal. Well and good; these folks have the time, money, and talent, and I'm glad they're spending them on this problem. But it tends to miss the messiness, and its picture of what the press looks like, or would if it only had more support, is always a ProPublica investigation of state sewer spending and never the fair quantity of junk that even well-resourced institutions are glad to push. (Today in the Times, not buried but at the top of the home page: "Why Are So Many Millennials Going to Mongolia?") It seems to me that to address the very real problem of the disappearing press, we must see that press as it is, without pretense or a distorting high gloss. 

With that in mind, I am pleased to forward this announcement that "USA TODAY and The Tennessean/tennessean.com, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK, [are] seeking an experienced, video-forward journalist to capture the music and cultural impact of Taylor Swift." If you are "an energetic writer, photographer and social media pro who can quench an undeniable thirst for all things Taylor Swift with a steady stream of content across multiple platforms," this is the job for you, provided that you have a bachelor's or master's, at least five years' experience, and a willingness to forgo the Oxford comma--in addition to, I am surmising from the job description and the requirement for a "video cover letter," the urge to splash oneself across various platforms, the better to "quickly cultivate a national audience through smart content designed to meet readers on their terms." 

Good luck to the competitors! With jobs scarce, there will be many. But take heart: having announced the Swift opening yesterday, USA Today and the Tennesseean swiftly announced this morning that they are also "seeking a reporter to chronicle the music, fashion, cultural and economic influence of Beyoncé."


Posted by Paul Horwitz on September 13, 2023 at 11:13 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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