“The newsroom is the essential vehicle for understanding a city, because it’s not one guy at a computer trying to figure shit out,” he said. “It’s a newsroom full of sources, it’s a newsroom full of people who spent half their career on a beat. When the city hall reporter is 24-years-old, you know, you ain’t going to find out what’s going on in city hall.”
Nor is it any consolation when new-media companies hire reporters to cater to a national audience.
Of Arianna Huffington and her 13-million-unique-visitor-a-month Huffington Post, Simon said, “She can dabble like a dilettante in national politics—‘I’m going to hire eight, nine people, actually pay them a salary, maybe, call them an investigative team and loose these eight, nine people on Washington.’ When human beings can’t find out what’s going on in Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis, Trenton and everywhere else in the United States, how does that save journalism?
“The day that there’s a bunch of Huffington Post reporters in Baltimore, and there’s a Baltimore edition of the Huffington post, then you know what it is? It’s a newspaper and it’s online—it’s an online paper and it’s something to be reckoned with. But until they’re going to be there every day and until they’re going to have 40, 50, 60,000 readers in Baltimore, concerned about the issues in Baltimore, the Huffington Post doesn’t mean shit to the average American. It doesn’t mean shit to people in New York if they want to find out about metro coverage.”
For Simon, the galling thing is not that print is yielding to online—he makes a point of saying that he has no interest in preserving newsprint (“you know, cutting down trees”). The problem is the disappearance of a bunch of local outlets, to be replaced by a few big national ones.
We’d love better business minds than ours to weigh in here, but we’ve long thought that the decline in local news organizations is just the end phase of a decline that started with the death of the local department store; we assume that Huffpo’s push into local, along with Patch, etc. is basically just the journalistic equivalent of Walmart, no?
You should really read the whole article at Capital, since David gets into the business model and how the race for as many eyeballs as possible destroyed local newsrooms.