Friday, March 25, 2011



“Almost every survey I’ve seen where people in the community are asked what role does their newspaper play that they really value, they talk about the watchdog role. They want newspapers to hold their public officials accountable. They fear that, in the absence of a newsroom doing that, no one will do it. . . . Newspapers need to understand how much that role is valued, and they need to understand that it’s a unique role that they can play.”

—Butch Ward, managing editor,
The Poynter Institute, March 2011 URL

Editorial Comment:
Nuthin’ but a hound dog...

Save Your GRAMA! Today @ 11! Citizens and journalists supporting repeal of HB477, the new law rolling back Utah’s open-records law that won the Society of Professional Journalists’ “Black Hole Award,” rally today at the Utah Capitol as the Legislature convenes in special session to reconsider the law. Gov. Gary Herbert has called for its repeal and for a rewrite. Herbert to get “Green Hole” Award for law forbidding e-petitions, thus requiring wasteful paper petitions.

PR Conference Today & Tomorrow: Utah State’s PRSSA chapter hosts the Mountain West Regional Public Relations Conference, this Thursday-Friday in Logan, Utah. Click here for information.

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  1. On Mar 25, 2011, at 11:43 AM, Bruce wrote:

    Isn't the conversation more about how news is to be delivered and consumed? And, more about the public's real desire to be informed (or not). I've bee on the mountain for one week. No national or international news at all. Blood pressure is like an 18-year-old's.

  2. Yes, this is a core issue, I think. The traditional (and a bit sanctimonious) way to think about the press is as an indispensable service to the democratic process — hence the importance of the watchdog. But do we depend on journalists or on other sources now for these kinds of essential alerts?

    And, as you say, while you're out communing, or when I'm chasing the wily salmon off the NCalif coast, the world goes on and we're perfectly happy for it to do so....

  3. I'd say the core issue is the economics of news now that it's divorcing from advertising, which created a rocky, but supportive marriage over the last 150 years.

    Economics is particularly hostile to watchdogs. We all know that it's the most expensive reporting because of staff time, lawyering and the possibility of alienating sponsors and sources if they are targets of the reports. But given copyright laws, the moment a scandal becomes news, every news outlet and blog can report it without having to cite the originator.So the chance to profit from the investigation is brief. On top of that, as the late Ed Baker noted, the very presence of investigative reporters suppresses malfeasance, a positive externality that generates great benefit for society but no news to sell.

    No wonder it's so rare!

    P.S. Part of your contentment in the wild without news is based on the diligent reporting going on in your absence. How will you feel if news continues to go away and the wilds are privatized or developed?

  4. Watch dogs and lap dogs can be from the same breed; it is all in the training. This is why "news-editorial" and "public relations" belong in separate school rooms.

    --hodges (a retired bu not yet dead journalism teacher said that.)

  5. John is correct, of course: When I bliss out and ignore the news for a day or so, I do assume that SOMEONE is watching the store. (And the fact is that I never really disconnect. Last summer I checked news feeds on my iPhone while waiting for the halibut to bite...)