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Last week, with family, I went to the movie “Marley and Me.” It’s obviously about a journalist in Florida, his dog and his family. It was a bit jarring. Why? Not because of any of the crazy dog scenes or the less-than-excited-feeling it gave me about having kids — no, the impact came from the scene it presented about the world of journalism.
The movie was set in the 90s and here was a young reporter in Florida with opportunities abounding. He got offered job after job, promotion after promotion. Newspapers were hiring and thriving, telling important stories. And this writer wasn’t content even in this ocean of prosperity.
It was jarring because that world — if it ever existed — certainly doesn’t exist now. Newspapers everywhere are falling apart, being closed or being sold — though nobody appears to be buying. Publishers are laying off reporters, not promoting them. Magazines, local television stations and media sources everywhere are cutting back. Even NPR, once a fundraising powerhouse, is cutting talent and programs.
There is a startling and fast-paced revolution occurring in the way we get news.
Unfortunately, it’s happening right during the time when local, in-depth, investigative reporting is most needed. It’s not the most opportune time to completely revise our entire media landscape.
But we don’t have any choice. Local governments are about to go through their most challenging times in recent memory. School districts will be facing strife and trouble as the state does whatever it will eventually have to do to pull itself away from the brink of bankruptcy. The local economy and housing market will need to be monitored obsessively. The stories that emerge about our environment, our public safety issues, our neighborhoods and our neighbors may never be more interesting.
You see what we do with our budget every day. We’re trying to tell these important tales.
So if you are looking for an end-of-the-year donation to round out your giving for the year, please consider donating to help us fund our 2009 budget. If you’d prefer to send a check rather than do it online, you can get all the information here. We’ve got a great year planned and we are optimistic about our ability to grow and take on more and more stories — more and more angles from more and more places in the county.
To those who have already given, we can’t thank you enough. Please consider coming to our monthly member coffees where everyone who gives — whether it’s $10 or $10,000 — can come listen to our plans and suggest better ones.
The journalism world may not be anything like it used to be. But you can take steps to help its most important services survive the transition.