I’ve said this before, but I’m saying it again, especially now that I’m living in a Top-10 media market: I preferred the news on the below-100 stations in Fort Wayne. I can’t tell you why, except that it’s more interesting, in the way that amateurs are more thrilling than professionals, that people who don’t get it right are funnier than those who do, that a brow yet unlined by time is better than one unlined by Botox. It’s news without a net.
Fort Wayne is an entry-level media market, and sometimes it seemed the whole news operation had been turned over to high-school kids. You became accustomed to seeing reporters so young they looked as though they weren’t ready to shave. Since only a fool watches TV news in Fort Wayne to get the actual news, I watched for the other entertainment — the manic head-nodding as the anchor tossed to the live stand-up; the mispronunciations of the simplest place names; the goofy, puppylike enthusiasm you only see in those who haven’t had it beaten out of them by consultants and bosses and other villains.
Compared to the slick androids of Detroit news operations, I’ll take the raw material. Much more amusing.
So, that said, it seems a bit strange to be getting on a high horse to defend the lost newsroom of Fort Wayne on journalism grounds. Is community coverage really going to suffer with one fewer TV news operation? Maybe, but probably not. It still pisses me off. When reporters lose their jobs to increase profits and “efficiency,” it’s not good news.
Here’s a prediction: In the days to come, very few voices will be heard on this issue. Maybe one of the papers will write an editorial; perhaps a columnist will clear his throat for a few paragraphs. The tone will be sad, but not very — there are new realities in the business of journalism, which is, we must always remember, a business. No mention will be made in any of these columns of the current business climate in the city’s print operations; my old paper is now approaching a staff level of maybe 60 percent of its high, four years ago. Circulation is falling off the table, which contributes to the cost-cutting cycle. Does anyone make the connection that perhaps people are dropping the paper because it’s now filled with wire copy, rather than locally written stories? Of course they know this. But they don’t care. This is, we must always remember, a business. The day is coming soon when there will be one fewer print newsroom in the city, too, and some things shouldn’t be said too loudly.
This is wrong. The idea that people who profit from the public airwaves should serve the public is positively antique, but it was a good one, and I’m sorry to see it go.
Yes, journalism is a business. So is plastics. But plastics doesn’t get mentioned in the first amendment. Journalism does. And guess what else. All those reporters at Channel 33? They were fed peanuts. A few folks made a decent buck there, but in a market like that, there are plenty of staffers who are eating ramen noodles three nights a week.
OK, that’s the end of that rant.
I think the evening update will come back for a while. I need a more structured morning, a more active morning, and mostly, I miss the nightly dinner menu reports. Tonight: Salmon Cooked on Salt, from the new Gourmet cookbook. It’s so cool — pour two cups of kosher salt into a dry cast-iron skillet, heat it up, place a salmon filet on top, cover and uncover 12 minutes later to find a perfectly cooked piece o’ fish. Serve with cucumber dill sauce, asparagus and au gratin potatoes, plus a nice chardonnay. Mmm, don’t you wish you were invited tonight?
No dessert, but I think there are some ice-cream sandwiches in the freezer, if you’re still hungry.