‘In Short, the Parasite is Killing the Host’

May 6, 2009 4:53pm

From ABC News’ Tom Shine:

David Simon used to be a newspaperman in Baltimore.  "Head and heart, I was a newspaperman from the day I signed up at my high school paper until the day in 1995, 18 years later, when I took a buyout from the Baltimore Sun and left for the fleshpots of Hollywood."

Today, David Simon is a witness before Senator John Kerry’s commerce committee looking into the "Future of Journalism."  He starts off his testimony by saying, "Ideally, rather than listening to me, you should be hearing from any number of voices of those still laboring in American journalism." 

He goes on to say the following:

"High-end journalism is dying in America and unless a new economic model is achieved, it will not be reborn on the web or anywhere else.  The internet is a marvelous tool and clearly it is the informational delivery system of our future, but thus far it does not deliver much first-generation reporting.  Instead, it leeches that reporting from mainstream news publications, whereupon aggregating websites and bloggers contribute little more that repetition, commentary and froth.  Meanwhile, readers acquire news from aggregators and abandon its point of origin — namely newspapers themselves. In short the parasite is slowing killing the host."

"Understand here that I am not making a Luddite argument against the internet and all that it offers. But democratized and independent though they may be, you do not — in my city (Baltimore) –run into bloggers or so-called citizen journalists at City Hall, or in the courthouse hallways or at the bars and union halls where police officers gather.  You do not see them consistently nurturing and then pressing sources.  You do not see them holding institutions accountable on a daily basis."

"Modern newspaper reporting was the hardest and in some ways most gratifying job I ever had.  I am offended to think that anyone, anywhere believes American Institutions as insulated, self-preserving and self-justifying as police departments, school systems, legislatures and chief executives can be held to gathered facts by amateurs pursuing the task without compensation, training or for that matter, sufficient standing to make public officials even care to whom they are lying or from whom they are withholding information."

"The idea of this is absurd, yet to read the claims some new media voices are already making, you would think they need only bulldoze the carcasses of moribund newspapers aside and begin typing.  They don’t know what they don’t know."

He calls Wall Street and the free-market logic a destructive force in journalism and adds: "in short my industry butchered itself and we did so at the behest of Wall Street."

Very powerful testimony on the day when the Boston Globe announced it wants a 23 percent cut in its union wages and the New York Times announced a $6 Sunday edition.

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