Friday, December 10, 2010

We Deserve Better

New Hampshire has lousy media. This is not news. Regular readers have heard me say that before. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. There really isn’t any decent statewide media coverage. Oh, if something terrible happens, we might hear about Colebrook, or Lebanon, but otherwise, you’d think the whole state revolves around Manchester, with an occasional assist from Concord and Portsmouth. Keene is visible, sitting on the bench. The rest of the state is mostly invisible. Given our status in the presidential primary, it’s especially odd that we have only one network television station. That’s a media monopoly that should make us uncomfortable.

I read a lot of newspapers online; NH papers for my life as a NH blogger and papers from all over the country for my life as a nationwide blogger. It is amazing to be able to access so much information, and see what is going on around the country. The downside to this is (because there is always a downside) is the commentary. The internet provides a cloak of anonymity that gives people the opportunity to say ugly things. That ugliness is prevalent in the comments following nearly every story in the NH Union Leader.

Over the last two months there have been a series of stories about the purchase of the Fraser Paper Mill in Gorham. When the mill closed down, 250 people lost their jobs. This was a devastating loss to an area that is already devastated by the systematic loss of manufacturing jobs that’s taken place over the last 20 years. Arguing about what elected officials and community leaders should have done is pointless. The reality is stark – 250 people lost their jobs. When it seemed that Governor Lynch had helped find a buyer for the mill, you’d think folks around the state would be happy – a company would stay open, and people would go back to work. The comments on the pages of the UL were not happy. One commenter pointed out that those jobs should go to the southern part of the state where “people really need them.”

Many people who live in the southern, most densely populated, part of the state seem to believe that the area above Concord is a vast wasteland populated by colorful natives who engage in ritual pastimes of skiing and gathering maple syrup, and who, once winter has ended go into a dormant state for the rest of the year. One reason for this disconnect is the lack of decent statewide media. Our one network TV station is located in Manchester, and that’s mostly what they cover. They don’t venture into the vast wasteland very often. The top half of the state is not at all well served by this. The NH UL claims to be a statewide paper. It’s a propaganda arm for the GOP. Again, the state is not well served by this. There is no media that pulls the state together, connects the dots, and unites us. Instead, most people have a vague, if any, idea of what is going on in other parts of the state. This, by the way, trickles down into the legislature, and contributes to what doesn’t happen up north.

There’s precious little investigative journalism going on in our state. Investigative journalism is expensive. We don’t have any real statewide newspapers. The weeklies certainly don’t have the budget for it. The dailies don’t do much of it either. Print journalism is hanging on by a thread. No one has figured out how to make money combining newspaper and internet. The NY Times tried putting their op-ed columnists behind a paywall. It didn’t work out. Salmon Press has an online paywall for their network of newspapers. I don’t know how it works for them financially, but I do know that it discourages readers from outside their basic circulation area. Some papers are trying a charge for stories that are archived. I’m not sure how that works out either – but it seems unlikely that they make enough money to stay afloat doing that.

There are certainly some nationwide blogs that have gotten so big that they attract advertisers, and can afford to pay writers, but they’re the minority. Most blogs don’t make money. Most bloggers are unpaid. Some do a little paid blogging and a lot that is unpaid. (That’s the category I fall into.) Then there are the fortunate ones who actually make a living blogging. I don’t think that there’s a freestanding NH blog that has reached that level of success at this point in time.

After a lot of rumination, I don’t know what the answer is. I do know this much: we deserve better media than we have. Other states would like to take our first in the nation primary status away from us. Our “cheap media buys” have been an advantage in the past – but moving into the future, having only one network TV station and no statewide media is not any kind of advantage to candidates any more. Most of the coverage of the NH primary comes from out of state media outlets. NH should have a bigger slice of that pie. NH media should be a big deal.

As it stands now, the lesser known/lesser moneyed candidates don’t get much coverage at all. That’s another disservice, since the NH primary is supposed to be a place where everyone gets to learn about all of the candidates. Instead, we hear a lot about people we already know plenty about. We may want to rethink that, if we want to keep the primary here.

“It is extremely important for some part of the electoral process to permit new ideas and new candidates and fresh blood and new thinking, to revitalize parties and revitalize politics. [New Hampshire], states like mine and others, are the fountains from which change and progress can be made in this country.” Senator Gary Hart, winner of the 1984 NH primary

published as an op-ed in the December 10, 2010 edition of the Conway Daily Sun

© 2010 sbruce


DissedBelief said...

Great piece Susan and timely in light of the Assange "set up". Our NH Channel 9 is pathetic to say the least. And with all "news" orginazations, focuses on scandal and entertainment value, not real news worthy events/issues. It's introductory overly dramatic music and self advertising is hardly worthy of the product. "News" in general has deteriorated considerably. Other than yourself and Marvel, I don't glean anything of true value from our small local paper. I won't ever read the UL. NPR has also lent itself to hysteria. And this brings me to the latest information dissemination "scandal" of Julian Assange. NPR early on began its hysterical dialogue regarding Wikileaks and fed right into the "possible terrorism, treason and security breaches" of this site. How audacious are we? Right now we are screaming at China for controlling its media, while politicians here tear their hair out over documents I am ecstatic have surfaced. Hilary Clinton spoke earlier this year about the world wide web allowing freedom of speech and information, and now condemns this same statement from her lips. The individuals compromised are those who are receiving my tax dollars for poor behavior, underhanded activity and poor diplomatic negotiation. AND we are informed by these leaks of activities dispicable and corrupt to say the least. The swift method in which
Assange has been silenced is chilling. We are witnessing world government in action. No question he is innocent of the clearly trumped up rape charges against him. This entire ugly episode is proof positive to us lowly citizens, of the powers of big brother and how we are firmly under their thumbs in every way imaginable. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press? Only if you're Fox.

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