One of our writers in my department is a former journalist (actually two of them are, but the one I'm referring to is the most recent former journalist) who saw the writing on the wall a year ago and left her job as a reporter for a central Florida daily newspaper. And no, it wasn't The Orlando Sentinel.
Today we were discussing the slow death of local newspapers. This past Monday the local paper here, the Lexington Herald-Leader, laid off 53 people in its operation and asked others to take a pay cut in order to retain their jobs. This same scene is being played out across the country, as most of you already know.
I'm one of those who likes reading my news online. But when I travel to new areas for my job I DO make a habit of picking up local papers. You get a feeling for an area in their printed paper that you don't get in their online presence. Or at least I do. I'm not even sure I understand why. That might be a good subject for a future post.
A week ago, Herald-Leader reporter Tom Eblen had this piece in the paper. In it he mentions what our writer and I were talking about today and what is probably the one thing I would hate to see gone when newspapers fold or are in the process of folding; investigative reporting. The fourth estate is a major influence in keeping the lid on political corruption and business impropriety. I don't mean everyday reporting, I mean dig in and spend the time, money and resources to get to the truth of the matter. As much as I love them, local bloggers don't usually have those three necessary assets.
Looking at how the newspaper industry is shrinking and cutting costs, our writer and myself found ourselves in disagreement. She believes that in five years we will see widespread local political corruption.
I say it will be more like three, maximum.