Hopefully, you've perused the March 3 News Stand. In it, I bring to readers' attention an article by The Washington Post's Marc Fisher who laments that economic downsizing has led to a reduction in media coverage of state government in Richmond and Annapolis. Among the Mainstream Media, he notes, several newspapers have reduced the number of reporters at the capitols, about half as many in Virginia as there used to be, and that only one Virginia television station still maintains a bureau in capitol square. Alas, he maintains, despite the explosion of new media —blogs in particular — it isn't enough to fill the gaps left by the reduction of full-time journalists. Says who? While we won't be pretentious enough to claim bloggers fill the exact same role as political beat journalists, especially the old-fashioned five W's objective reporters — those days disappeared along with the buggy whip manufacturers anyway — we can say, speaking for ourselves, that bloggers have more than replaced what passed for electronic media coverage of the legislature. Never more than sound byte "journalism," exactly how much depth do viewers get from one- and two-minute television reports, or 30-second updates on radio?
Perhaps Mr. Fisher should have looked at our blog during session (see Capitol Square Diary) and our YouTube page. Everyone should. At last count we had 23 videos posted there, almost all concerning the General Assembly, and many of them from committee hearings. Not five- or 10-second sound bytes, but full testimonies and questions and answers between committee members and witnesses, not to mention the committee votes. Ahh, the votes.
Often what passes for news coverage of devious parliamentary gimmicks that kill bills without the legislators going on record is the media's complyingly innocuous, "the bill died in committee." But how? We show you! Which is something, that no matter how many television or radio station bureaus there are, never seems to be told. We don't let the politicians escape, unlike the Mainstream Media. I'm not sure why Mr. Fisher doesn't think that's laudable.
The fact is, the new media is here and will continue to grow in outlets as well as users, evolve in its delivery mechanisms (we were just getting used to blogs, then Facebook, when Twitter came around), and increase in importance. If that's to the Mainstream Media's demise, so be it. But if the MSM is at least partly responsible for its own demise for its complacency in seeing the future, it surely is fully responsible for its diminishing presence by its lack of depth of coverage and its flat-out distortations of its coverage of politics and policy.
Apparently, what matters most to MSM apologists is numbers — after all, what can legitimize the biased MSM other than to say tens of thousands read their publications or watch their broadcasts? It certainly isn't in the quality or depth of coverage. But the velocity of change in information consumption is happening faster than a Dick Saslaw foot-in-the-mouth comment. So new media audience numbers will grow in time. Of course, expecting the MSM to acknowledge that is like expecting them to cover a Dick Saslaw foot-in-the-mouth comment. It rarely, if ever, happens.