Sunday, March 12, 2006

At the end of the tunnel?

While we worry about how new owners could affect the quality of journalism at the Mercury News and other Knight Ridder newspapers, Michael Shapiro offers food for thought in the current cover article of CJR. In it, he tells how one of the top newspapers in the KR chain, the Philadelphia Enquirer, has fared under what KR's managment.

The upshot: it ain't pretty. Here's an excerpt from his article, Looking for Light:
The Inquirer, it was said in a tone used to describe a handsome friend who has not aged well, was not what it was.... No one was suggesting that the Inquirer had become a bad newspaper, far from it. But it had become duller — yet another newspaper whose occasional highs seemed to come at ever longer intervals. That judgment was rendered both from afar and from within the paper’s white tower of a home on North Broad Street.

The Inquirer had gone through three editors in the last six years, had by last summer seen its newsroom staff already reduced since 1999 from 600 to 500, and perhaps saddest of all, had gone from being perhaps the most alluring and electric place in the business to work to yet another newsroom where some young reporters wondered whether they would have been wiser to have gone to law school.

Shapiro, a writer and media critic, teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

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