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American Journalism = "Dead man walking"?

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Photographers flocked to see the USS Iowa make U. S. Navy history in a photogenic setting on the Memorial Day Weekend.

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This last time.

[Note:   This column will be a subjective report intended to proved a foundation for building an inductive logic case to support the contention that Journalism in the United States is reaching the point of no return for becoming an example of the death of a thousand cuts.]

Before posting our last column on Friday, May 22, 2012, we were informed by one of the panhandlers on Shattuck Ave. in downtown Berkeley, that an incident involving police and some homeless young folks had occurred the previous night.

After posting the column, we made a more concerted effort to ask around to get some facts and information about the news potential of the event.   The street people related that the police had attempted to ticket a sleeping person about midnight and when the fellow did not wake up the Police used extreme physical methods to try to wake him up so that they could engage him in a conversation.

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At that point the columnist was aware that the story had two possible ultimate conclusions; either it was a case of biased criticism of police procedures or it was a newsworthy example of police misconduct.

This writer has been posting columns asserting that Journalism in the USA is on the endangered species list, so this latest incident in Berkeley seemed like it would provide a convenient handle for another similar installment in the series of columns contending that the prognosis for Journalism in the USA is:   "dead man walking." Instinctively, we knew that there would be resistance to any attempts to submit a news tip and that such reluctance to listen would be the topic for our next column.   Has submitting a news tip taken on the same karma as offering a piece of Kryptonite to Superman?  

Writing about the Berkeley event itself would require a massive amount of fact gathering which could not possibly be finished in time for a column that would be posted on the First Friday in June, so we decided to render help to the panhandlers in the form of a news tip to other area news sources which might report about the event which, according to hearsay, sent a young man to the hospital.   (Later we were told that the fellow was a veteran who had served in Iraq.)   On Friday morning, a lawyer from the East Bay Community Law Center was interviewing the young homelesspeople about what had occurred the previous night.

If the event was as serious as some contend, then it might develop into a Berkeley version of the Rodney King beating.   A veteran had been injured last November at an Occupy Oakland event, so perhaps police beating up indigent veterans would be a trend-spotting story.   Such a trend would outrage Liberals and put conservatives in an embarrassing position because they would have to choose between approving the new anti-veteran philosophy or endorse the criticism of the police.   Either way the Conservatives would look inconsistent in their beliefs.  

We called the California Center for Investigative Reporting and the phone operator said they weren't interested in news tips about local events.   She suggested that I could write up a query letter offering to do all the work myself and submit that via snail mail.   Apparently if our news value judgment is better than theirs, we can prove it by doing all the work and then letting them take an agent's cut for selling it.

Since the Berkeley Daily Chronicle is defunct and since the Berkeley Daily Planet's weekly print edition has been suspended, the UC Berkeley student newspaper, the Daily Californian, has endeavored to take up the slack in that city's local news coverage.  

This example of a decline in local commercial news coverage is not a fatal wound for American Journalism, but it is a noticeable cut and entered as evidentiary exhibit for the contention being made by this column.   The fact that the Times Picayune of New Orleans has suspended daily publication is a more pertinent example of a long slow decline in local newspaper journalism.   

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We walked to the office of the Daily Californian and were told by a young man acting as receptionist that there was no member of the editorial staff available to listen to the news tip.   A receptionist can make a news decision or block a tip from being submitted?   There is another example of a non-fatal cut for our "case."

Now since our experience has been that the editor at the Santa Monica Independent Journal Newspapers always advised that a good journalist is always open to receiving news tips and since Doug Brew later became Time Magazine's White House correspondent; we have always assumed that his advice about Journalism was reliable.  

The World's Laziest Journalist has always welcomed news tips.   Our past columns on the Pascua Lama gold mining and Germany's Pirate Political Party were spawned by news tips.

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BP graduated from college in the mid sixties (at the bottom of the class?) He told his draft board that Vietnam could be won without his participation. He is still appologizing for that mistake. He received his fist photo lesson from a future (more...)
 

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