The company that owns the Knoxville News-Sentinel, the leading daily newspaper in town, has bought out the local alt-weekly, Metro Pulse. Here’s the Sentinel article about it; here’s the Pulse article. (Hat tip: Jay.) Says Glenn Reynolds: “It’s probably a good business move for them, but it makes Knoxville even more of a one-newspaper town.”
Of course, everyone is solemnly promising to preserve the Pulse’s editorial independence, and most of the people saying that probably even mean it. But regardless, this is a terrible trend in journalism, and it’s happening everywhere. It happened not so long ago in Hartford, when the Hartford Courant bought the Hartford Advocate. Big national developments like Rubert Murdoch’s bid for the WSJ get all the headlines, but it’s the consolidation of ownership and lack of competition in local markets that upsets me most, because local newspapers, TV and radio are the predominant non-Internet news sources for the average person, and the realities of the modern market have robbed them — particularly the newspapers — of the journalistic vitality they once had.
There is just nothing good, from a journalistic perspective, about this sort of consolidation. It sucks, but that’s the direction the industry’s moving in, and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. It’s actually one reason (of many) that I decided not to go into journalism. In so many ways, idealistic journalists in this country — and there’s no good reason to go into journalism if you’re not an idealist about it — are fighting an uphill battle against forces they can’t control: ownership consolidation, lack of local competition, increasingly unreasonable profit-margin demands (which, in concert with the lack of local competition, creates totally perverse incentives and priorities), unfriendly legal developments, sensationalism and bias (and the perception thereof), the general dearth of fellow quality journalists, the overall decline of the industry as the Internet grows, hostility to the profession from all corners, etc. etc. Why work crazy hours for crappy pay in service of an unattainable ideal that nobody really cares if you achieve? Hence my going to law school. At least as a lawyer, you get paid well to work ridiculous hours and have everybody hate you. :)