White Noise: News from Inside the Media Bubble
One down in Asheville
Cecil Bothwell, former reporter for the Asheville Mountain Xpress, began the Asheville City Paper in November 2007 with a boost from South Carolina’s independently owned Columbia City Paper. But according to Publisher Paul Blake, the Asheville paper put out its last issue in May. “Our business model is unique in that [each paper] is employee-owned,” he said. “That kind of model is not going to work everywhere, especially in a place where they already have a very good independent paper.
“It’s a shame,” he continued. “I’d be more upset if there wasn’t already an alternative voice there.”
Blake says he still has plans to replicate the success of his Columbia paper in a different market.
“It’s not gonna be the last time we attempt to make an employee-owned alterative newsweekly,” he said. “But [right now] we need to focus on Columbia.”
The McClatchy shrinkage
McClatchy Newspapers, the chain that owns Raleigh’s News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer, announced major layoffs last week that will eliminate some regional editions and consolidate operations at the state capitol. The company cut 70 positions in Raleigh, including 16 full- or part-time newsroom positions. Staff writer Ted Vaden laid out the impact of the cuts in a shockingly blunt editorial last weekend. “There’s no getting around it,” he wrote, “The job cuts and other changes announced by The News & Observer last week mean that readers will be getting less.” All told, the paper plans to hack 14 pages a week off the business, news and op-ed sections. The layoffs are part of a companywide push to reduce its workforce by 10 percent across 30 newspapers.
A candidate for the Pulitzer
Laurels go to Tom Lasseter of McClatchy Newspapers, whose series on blunders and abuses by the US government in its anti-terrorism detention program was published amidst announcements that the company would make deep cuts in editorial staffing. Lasseter substantiated what many cognizant observers already suspected – that Afghanis unconnected with terrorist activities were snatched up by US forces based on faulty intelligence from informants motivated by vendetta, that detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and locations in Afghanistan were sometimes tortured within an inch of their lives, and that the Bush administration systematically rigged the legal rules to bypass provisions of the Geneva Conventions protecting the rights of prisoners of war. Lasseter did it the tedious and old-fashioned way: interviewing 66 detainees around the world and poring over military tribunal transcripts. One has to wonder whether such vital investigative journalism will survive under the new, lean-staffing regime at McClatchy.