This week I made final preparations for a trip out west to southern California. The “Fit to Print” production is headed to San Diego and Los Angeles in a few weeks and we are scheduled to interview a broad range of former and current newspaper employees from the San Diego Union-Tribune and Los Angeles Times. As well, we will be filming inside the headquarters of Voice of San Diego, a new local start-up news site dedicated to providing residents of San Diego with quality content from trained news staffers.
I must give an advanced thank you to the staffers of Voice of San Diego who have been more than welcoming of “Fit to Print”. It’s my personal belief that if every city in America could be as lucky as the residents of San Diego with this new start-up for local watchdog news, we would definitely not be seeing the crisis within the news industry continue. Unfortunately, VOSD remains small in staff size and has big shoes to fill as they gain the trust of a city in which the majority it’s news-goers have been reading the The San Diego Union-Tribune since 1868.
Former Union-Tribune reporters (names to be saved) have also stepped up to the plate and agreed to be filmed for the documentary as well. I’m quickly finding out through talking with these people over the phone that they have an urgency to speak out and share their concerns over the state of the industry. This is a great thing, because without their voices being heard, the private equity firms and public relations departments (who control most news outlets anyway) will continue to degrade legacy institutions. This is true not just at the Union-Tribune, but at major newspapers across the country.
Reporters, editors, photographers, print pressmen, web designers and other staffers didn’t kill the newspaper industry — for those who are quick to lash out against them. The industry has been eroded by a half-century of negligence and greed. The old cliché of ‘printing money’ has finally caught up to those old rich white-men who have been dominating this industry for decades. And the saga continues when examining how newspapers are attempting to “interact” with citizen journalists and non-profits. Take for example what the Union-Tribune recently did by cutting it’s ties to the Watchdog Institute. This would have supplied the paper with investigative journalism through a non-profit model. Instead, the idea has been abandoned.
Maybe some people out there believe protecting the First Amendment can come just as easily through a Beverly Hills investment firm (Platinum Equity in the Union-Tribune’s case). Others, including myself believe this is not only a sick joke, but the degradation of an American institution.
The San Diego Union-Tribune has remained one of the oldest institutions in Southern California. These days, however, it remains far removed from the era of Copley family ownership. Just another American journalistic tragedy.
…More to come on the struggles between “Fit to Print” and The Los Angeles Times next week.