Monday, July 9, 2012

Can partisanship hurt American newspapers?

Sorry it's been so long, but this has been a very busy summer with lots of planning for major changes coming for Marquette student media.

However, this story illustrates the continuing experience of American newspapers in reverting to the past. In this case, it's further illustration that our rapidly segmenting news media is continuing a slide toward a partisan press, such as we had in America partisan press during the late 18th and first half of the 19th century when news outlets (generally newspapers) were openly affiliated with a party or political idea. That's where names like Waukesha Freeman, Manchester Union-Leader or any of the various newspapers called Republican or Democrat originated.

Erik Sass reports that purchases of newspapers by politically-oriented owners with open partisan leanings "threatens the editorial independence of some publications." He specifically cites the recent purchase of The San Diego Union-Tribune by a real estate developer who opens says, according to Sass, that the newspaper will be a cheerleader for a downtown stadium.  Frankly, the newspaper's previous owners were often accused of slanting the news so it's only changing the message, not the tone.

This trend, added to the increasing segmentation of the Internet and the open partisanship of cable television, allows us to only know all the news deemed important by likeminded media. It's interesting to see that issue being intelligently explored by Aaron Sorkin's HBO show, The Newsroom. And, yes, the show is highly partisan itself. Still, it is exploring some of the weaknesses of partisan media.

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