Reason # (Countless) Why Newspapers Matter To Nation

Sunday morning it was most obvious, again.

Often the Sunday newspapers are the edition when powerful stories are reported on page one, or a series starts that examines a topic that is not possible to thoroughly address in only one day.

The Washington Post blasted its way to the must-read category with the start of their international investigation series of powerful people on the world stage using secretive offshore system financing to hide billions of dollars from tax authorities, creditors, and criminal investigators.

The story is simply devastating to the likes of King Abdullah II of Jordan. It is reported that he secretly spent more than $106 million on lavish homes in the U.S. and Britain. Nearly $70 million was paid for three adjacent properties overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, forming one of the largest bluff-top complexes in the celebrity enclave of Malibu.

What is the undercurrent to this particular case is that Jordan, a close U.S. ally, has been roiled in recent years by public discontent over alleged government corruption.

I would urge my readers to spend some time with the news story as it is well researched and written.

But the reason for this post comes with a question. Where would a story like this fit into the world of television news? 

With time limits and the way consultants micro-manage content the series would never find its way on the news, with sufficient substance, so to allow viewers any idea of the scope of the financial manipulation involved.

While the facts of the story about international intrigue matter, so does the fact that newspapers, themselves, matter. And we all need to be mindful of what is happening to the newspaper profession.

I have been posting for years about the woes of the newspaper industry in the digital media age. I have written about the revenue from the industry being cut in half between 2008 and 2018 because of a ruinous decline in print advertising. And to the gut of the matter that means during that same time frame newsroom employment declined 25%. (Pew Research)

We are in fact going to suffer tremendously for the loss of accountability that the papers provide to insure our government has journalistic oversight, a loss of a daily record of events that makes for historical documentation, and a sense of commonality that allows us to have some overall reference point as a nation.

I say this because the morning newspapers that ferret out corruption and investigates issues untouchable to the average citizen is an essential component for how we are made aware of the world. 

As the Post made most clear this morning.

But let us consider this from a local perspective.

What would happen if local newspaper reporters were not at their jobs to hold our state leaders accountable. I can only assume that the Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly would snicker if a blogger showed up to investigate a legislative scandal.  On the other hand with pen and notepad in hand, a reporter from the Wisconsin State Journal sends a message when entering a room with a question and a barrel of ink. (OK, the ink part is dated, but your blogger came from the nostalgic era when reading a newspaper left a darkness to one’s fingers.)

The point of this post is that there is always a real level of concern about the need to monitor government and policies. That can not be done on the cheap, or by amateurs.  After all, while many like to grouse about the press, let us not forget they are professionals, and do much to keep us free and safe.

Today a national newspaper made that point most clearly.

And so it goes.

Newspaper Headlines Might Need A Comma

I have read newspapers since my boyhood days in Hancock, Wisconsin where the first treasure to be found each day was the comic strip Buz Sawyer.

Over the years, I have noted the changes to papers regarding the size, font, and even the placement of color photos on the front page. Newspaper readers, I have found, take their papers seriously and comment on various aspects of the published pages.

As with, in my estimation, the need for commas in some headlines.

The headline above, from the September 26, 2021 edition of The Wisconsin State Journal, screams out for the use of commas.

While commas are not often used in newspaper headlines, they do at times appear. But then when they really do need to be placed in the headline, but are omitted, it makes for an awkward outcome. How much better the following headline looks, and reads with commas.

4th voter, out of 3 million, charged with fraud

I like newspapers that run a tighter editing shop than how the State Journal has, more recently, allowed for stories to be written or as in this case, headlines to be constructed. Economic downturns in the profession have hit everywhere, and so I am mindful of why staff reductions are reflected on the pages.

I also very much grasp the fact that almost no one cares anymore about such fussiness but such things do matter. Newspapers still should set a standard of grammar and punctuation that is instructive to the rest of us.

I would trust that idea never becomes ‘old-fashioned’.

And so it goes.

Nation’s Newspapers: Front-Page Coverage Of Deadly Kabul Airport Depravity

The front pages of newspapers from around the nation showcase the anger and loss of life from yesterday’s bomb blasts at the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan.

British Newspapers Headline Depravity At Kabul Airport

The painful front pages of the morning newspapers from Britain.

Why I Detest Hedge Funds, Chicago Tribune Showcases Reasons

If you ever wondered what the call letters for WGN (radio or TV) stand for now might be the time to find out. Because the root of the meaning is slowing dying.

Col. Robert McCormick was a legendary businessman and mover and shaper of Chicago. He is best known as the owner and publisher of the famed Chicago Tribune. He rightly had proclaimed that newspaper as the “World’s Greatest Newspaper” as it was a long-time preeminent source of news for the region. When the company bought a radio station and television station the idea for the call letters fell into place.


Now the newspaper has fallen into the grubby and destructive hands of a hedge fund known for destroying local journalism.

When it comes to hedge funds it comes as no surprise I rank them alongside those who sold cure-all elixirs door-to-door at one time in our nation. They are best termed as “vulture capitalists”. Soulless, too.

Now comes news that the newspaper will likely be saying goodbye, by the end of next week, to some of its best-known names who, with their bylines, have allowed readers to know a credible reporter was writing the story. The reason for this madness is the newspaper is fully under the control of a hedge fund known for severe cost-cutting. No regard for talent and experience, or the needs of the citizenry to have a newspaper designed to impart information to all the neighborhoods and communities that rely on the Tribune.

Instead, there is now a voluntary buyout underway as Alden Global Capital sinks their teeth into the meat and bone of a newspaper that has been a regional necessity for readers. If the new owners accept the reporter’s buyout they will be gone by Friday, June 18th.

I have no problem with money being made by a business, but I do have deep concerns when the goal is money over ‘anything else’. In this case, ‘anything else’ is the local news that will be short-changed from being reported. I do not wish to be viewed as having only sentimental or nostalgic “back in the day” perspectives that are brought to this issue. While I was raised with a daily newspaper in our Hancock home, and have subscribed to at least one daily paper during all my adult years my purpose of writing this post is due to a long-lasting truism.

Journalists do work continuously to get the facts sorted, copy written, and edits made under deadlines and tremendous pressures so that we can learn the news we need to know as citizens.

Short-term profits for hedge funds at the expense of iconic news operations or the needs of news consumers are appalling. We need regulations to stop and undo the consolidation of our news, (be it radio, newspapers, or broadcast television), into the hands of fewer and fewer people.

And so it goes.

WI Newspaper Uncovered Deaths Of Migrant Workers, Chicago Tribune Faces Hedge Fund Owner

This is one of those days when the news, and news of the ones who provide that information make for a timely, but sad, post.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel undertook an investigation into the deaths of migrant workers in Northern Wisconsin from COVID. They discovered that 1 in 14 migrant workers at a green bean plant died of COVID. The investigation also shows that the deaths occurred after company officials along with government regulators failed to take critical measures to protect employees during a pandemic.

Before I go forward with the story about the migrants I want it noted that a newspaper did the investigation. It underscores another reason why that profession matters. Very much.

The Journal Sentinel investigation shows that neither Seneca Foods nor local health officials tested all workers—even those living in company barracks — or interviewed them to do contact tracing. That is simply appalling, given the ferocity of the virus and the science behind both testing and tracing. As if that all is not enough it was also reported that the company did not monitor for obvious symptoms or isolate all those who became ill.

To top off the indefensible actions of one of America’s largest packaged vegetable companies, which produces Green Valley and Libby’s brand green beans it was reported that many of the affected workers were in their 60s or 70s.

That newspaper investigation demonstrates why reporters and journalists in that profession matter so much to our society. Information and background that we otherwise would not be aware of, and insight into the workings of a large corporation during a pandemic.

But as that news was being published in Wisconsin there was another news story taking place across the Illinois border.

Tribune Publishing, owner of some of the biggest metropolitan newspapers in the United States, including the famed Chicago Tribune, is poised to be acquired by a hedge fund with a reputation for slashing costs and cutting jobs after the company’s shareholders voted to approve the deal.

That news is simply awful.

Hedge funds are akin to those who once sold cure-all elixirs door-to-door. They are best termed as “vulture capitalists”. It also should come as no shock Alden has done great harm to other papers around the nation. Chopped them up after purchasing for the all-consuming zeal to make money.

But there is also a more fundamental issue to consider with the amassing of properties in large media companies. When papers are owned in such a fashion opposing views are marginalized and Op-Ed pages are watered down.

The Tribune newsroom has already shrunk roughly 30% since November 2018, from about 165 journalists in the union to 118 presently. Those are not just jobs, but news reporters who head around neighborhoods to gather the stories which inform readers.

Today we can see why newspapers matter. And also why we need to be very concerned about their future health.

Wisconsin Newspapers Hit Hard In Pandemic

It has been a very tough year for many professions and groups in Wisconsin as the pandemic raged. Reporters, journalists, and newsrooms of newspapers and print publications were not spared. As noted by Poynter, “It’s getting hard to keep track of the bad news about the news right now. But we have to“.

I agree it is important to know the impact of job cuts and the business losses for the newspaper profession. I say this because the morning newspapers that ferret out corruption and investigates issues untouchable to the average citizen is an essential component for how we are made aware of the world. 

I have been posting for years about the woes of the newspaper industry in the digital media age. I have written about the revenue from the industry being cut in half between 2008 and 2018 because of a ruinous decline in print advertising. And to the gut of the matter that means during that same time frame newsroom employment declined 25%. (Pew Research)

This all resonates because the need for accurate information is more important than ever. The past four years have been a daily reminder as to why that is true. Having access to independently gathered, accurate information is as essential and vital to our process of governing as is the right to vote.

Now take a look at what happened to the newspaper industry in Wisconsin, reported by Poynter over the past year.

  • In March, Isthmus, a weekly in Madison, Wisconsin, announced it had to “go dark for an undetermined amount of time.” In November, it announced it applied for nonprofit status. 
  • Shepherd Express in Milwaukee suspended its print edition.
  • The Janesville Gazette will stop printing on Saturday and Sunday.
  • The Washburn County Register in Shell Lake will close at the end of September. It’s owned by the Inter-County Cooperative Publishing Association.
  • Forum News Service reported layoffs and the end of Monday and Friday print in its “more than two-dozen newspapers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.”
  • The Capital Times in Madison announced furloughs and pay cuts.
  • Capital Newspapers in Madison laid off at least one person, Poynter has learned. It is co-owned by Lee Enterprises and The Capital Times Company.
  • Lee Enterprises had furloughs and cost-cutting measures, including a 20% pay cut for executives. It owns six newspapers in Wisconsin.

There are many reasons to feel sad and nostalgic over losing reporters and column inches in newspapers in our communities. But I wonder if the country can be as strong and educated without the work that is done by newspaper reporters, and the printing presses that roll out the daily first read of history?

And so it goes.

Prince Philip’s Death Makes Memorable Front Pages Of Newspapers

To the British people, he’s the longest-serving royal consort in the nation’s history serving alongside Queen Elizabeth for 65 years. They had been married for 73 years. The country, indeed the world, is paying tribute today over the news of the death of Prince Philip with truly must-see front pages of newspapers.