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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Request To Support Community Based Media

With the recent demise of a major Seattle news outlet and reports of similar incidents in cities across the US, it's disconcerting that our sources for information about what happens around us are being consolidated and reduced to television-friendly soundbites that are filtered as to not offend advertisers or the editorial bias empowered by limited competition in local markets.

Still, there is some hope in the form of community-based media... but, when other news outlets are dying off from a lack of revenue, can non-profit news outlets like community-based radio keep itself afloat in this difficult economic climate?

My own favorite local community-based radio station, KBCS 91.3, recently held their spring fund drive and fell $50,000 short of their modest goal of getting $177,000 in donations that they need to stay on the air and keep providing invaluable programming that includes the production of in-depth news reporting and investigative reports that discuss important stories that just aren't covered in the mainstream media or even in our local alternative print press.

Now, with the number of sources for news and information decreasing, it's more important than ever to keep these independent and invaluable sources of news reporting alive. Sure, blogs and other sites like this one are here to report on things that most other outlets only report on sporadically, if at all, as a specialized and focused repository of information. And yes, from time to time we do produce exclusive stories that wouldn't be found in any other local media outlet.

But, in large part, bloggers and independent journalists just don't have access to the same resources, the same audience base, and the same sources of inside information that media outlets, including community-based media, has access to. We depend on them just as much as you do as sources of information on which to base many of our stories that we bring to you.

We need them to stick around, you need them to stick around. I can't replace what they do, just as I can not hope to cover the stories that the Seattle Post Intelligencer was able to cover thanks to their immense resources and access to public records that I just cannot afford to buy.

Now, I've often toyed with the idea of asking for donations to help build this site, produce better stories, and gain access to public records that I couldn't afford otherwise... but instead I'm going to ask that our readers consider donating to KBCS in order to keep them around and help them produce the kind of stories that we depend on.

Please visit their membership page and donate what you can to keep them on the air and keep them producing the great content that they've been giving to us with programs like One World Report that is produced locally and focuses on the issues that are important to our community like Seattle Police accountability and local civil rights issues.

If you won't do it for me, at least do it for yourself. We need all the voices that we can get who are willing to speak about important news stories. One major one has already been silenced, let's not risk losing another.


Five Before Midnight said...

Good article.

We still have our newspaper but they've fired nearly everyone on it who wrote good stories because the parent company in Texas keeps laying people off and of the four newspapers, the one in my city's the only one not making money due to losing a lot of advertising tied with the housing construction industry.

I worked for a community newspaper for years and the lack of stories was never the issue, the lack of resources was. Things like having a lawyer to back up your public information requests when the city attorney denies them makes a big difference for example. Also censorship by local governments (which in our case, removed every news rack in the city and dumped it in the back of a truck on some bogus insurance thing)or destroying newsr acks (with at least one being firebombed)and so forth.

The frustrating thing is wanting to do all these investigations including for items I received so far this week which are pretty serious issues tying with the current election and its relationship to the police department.

Too often it does come down to available resources. And it becomes the responsibility of those who have them but who might not be inclined (and it might be publishers and editors more than reporters) and who might themselves be impacted by the implosion of the print news media during the past several years.

Five Before Midnight said...

I think that my city's newspaper is in danger of going under although I did hear from a local lawyer that this guy who used to work on it (and served on the board of California First Amendment Coalition, a government watchdog organization) might be pushing for more progressive stories. The staff's been slashed pretty badly.

I've had more than a few readers of my blog say that when the newspaper goes under, it's left to the bloggers. But like you said, there's serious resource issues. Unless there's fellowships for blogging.

It's also difficult in other ways. I spent the day trying to get Craigslist to remove a posting by someone who hates my blog that gave reference to my neighborhood that I live in. I moved out of my old one to get away from police and told very few people where I live now. But it still gets out.

I got notice that someone posted at a college alumna site on my guest book. I went and looked and it was a cop from my city who retired last year. Strange.

Newspaper journalists face this as during some difficult stories, the reporters for the daily publication got threats but the smaller publications are more vulnerable (when one local weekly covered government corruption, its facility was burned in a mysterious fire) and bloggers are as well. So we're losing both out here (as I'm sure is the case elsewhere)as people get both few resources and intimidation.

I think journalism is set for some form of major change b/c of all the carnage now and blogging may be a big part of it. Hopefully, someday maybe the resources will catch up.

Packratt said...

To me, these are some pretty scary times.

Old media dying off without anything substantive waiting in the wings like what happened when radio and then television came along... this is different... most blogs aren't staffed and don't have the resources to replace what's being lost.

At the same time, federal, state, and local governments are becoming more secretive, pricing public information requests beyond the reach of regular individuals, and setting disturbing precedents in courts that limit the transparency of government.

Then there's the kinds of threats that you and I are familiar with... while newspapers and other MSMs could deal with those with teams of lawyers on retainer and the power of their large pen. We're pretty vulnerable... Even a couple meritless lawsuits could put any of us under... or worse, any felon offered a free pass in exchange for doing a bit of dirty work for a dirty cop.

It's scary times...

All we can do is keep watch on each others backs and hope for the best I think.

Thanks for the comments, they are appreciated as always.

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