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Paul Harvey and The Rocky Mountain News March 1, 2009

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Financial Crisis, Uncategorized.
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I can’t add anything of substance to the passing of Paul Harvey. As an avid radio listener growing up in the Midwest, Paul Harvey was the most unique voice on the radio…not just how he spoke “the news”, but how he wrote it. In some ways he was the GRIT magazine of the air. While they were never associated in business, it’s hard to imagine one without the other, while sitting in the living room of a farm house in Alhambra, IL, on a sweltering July Friday afternoon. The farm house, then GRIT, now Paul Harvey, all gone. Yet, some memories do not fade.

From The Chicago Tribune today:

“Simply put, Harvey preferred a life “sitting at that typewriter painting pictures” — and then reading those “pictures” over the air.

As he once said, “I’m just a professional parade watcher who can’t wait to get to the curbside.””

I could listen to his pictures all day. I won’t forget it.

Harvey’s passing, along with that of Johnny “Red” Kerr and Norm Van Lier, and it’s been a tough week for Chicagoans.

Then, dark news from the media front came on Friday when The Rocky Mountain News printed its last edition. In the grand scheme of things, it’s doesn’t seem significant. After all, other “great” newspapers have come and gone in the last 30 years. Why is this different? I’ve wrestled with that question and I don’t know if I can explain it.

I remembered my first experience with a “great” metro paper going under, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. The Newhouse organization owned it for a number of years and then John Prentis tried to keep it afloat but it ceased publication October 29, 1986. Leading up to its demise, the Globe was the conservative voice in an otherwise liberal, union-heavy environment. It’s probably a miracle that it lasted as long as it did. Pat Buchanan got his start there in 1961 and I read Bob Burnes’ “The Benchwarmer” for years. He was the antitheses of Bob Broeg at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Pulitzer won that battle but had to finally step away from the war, selling the P-D to Lee Enterprises. Anyway, the Globe did survive in an odd small market past its profitability, I believe, due to it being an alternative voice to the Pulitzer’s mighty P-D. Today, the Riverfront Times is the closest thing to competition left for the P-D, but it is a weekly.

As I scour the internet these days for news from St. Louis, it’s not easy to come by. Lee Enterprises, not known for their editorial generosity, has clamped down on the “newshole”. No sweeping exposes. Not much in the way of controversy although, from time to time, it is unavoidable. Actually, you can get more useful from the Belleville News-Democrat. McClatchy at least tries harder.

The point is, the public is served less well when competition in the news arena decreases. Since the closing of the Globe in 1986, the P-D hasn’t improved. It has collected a number of suburban weeklies and turned them into hollow horses, if you’d like to define that as success. And, the public knows it. If subscriptions have slipped, and they have, and people seek alternatives, whether from reliable sources, like the News-Democrat, or more entertaining sources like RFT, or less reliable blogs or politically-backed venues, who is to blame? The public?

So, it is now in Denver that the Denver Post will reign. How will it handle its new-found market exclusivity? I know what you’re thinking, they haven’t been nor will they ever be the “exclusive” source for information in Denver.  No newspaper has been an “exclusive” source for a community since the invention of the telegraph. But, it is a source of one kind and now there is no direct competitor to keep it honest. No Fox News to compare to CNN. No CNBC to compare to Bloomberg. No Fox Sports to compare with ESPN. The analogies can go down the line. Our sources are diminished so the news gathering and reporting are diminished and the public is less informed and, thus, less protected from predators of the government and private sector varieties.

What’s the answer? Subscribe! Or, if nothing else, register and read online if you’re concerned that newspapers sully the environment or they’re simply too awkward to read.

Keep your options open. Don’t cause them shut down and go away.

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Comments»

1. KC Compton - March 3, 2009

Hi,

Just wanted to let you know that, unlike Paul Harvey (rest his remarkable soul), Grit is still here. We’ve changed its format, to a bi-monthly magazine, but we’re going strong and getting better every day. Still doing heart-warming features about people in rural America, still doing lots of recipes of the kind of wholesome comfort food most of us grew up on.

Take heart — Grit lives!

Check us out at http://www.grit.com and get in touch with me. I’ll send you a complimentary copy of the newest version of our old friend.

Cheers,
K.C. Compton
Editor in Chief


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