FCC Comments That Didn't Make My Story
As I write this, I've just filed my story for tomorrow's paper about the FCC's media ownership hearings. And there was just so much that I couldn't fit in the 20-inch newshole given me for print.
The hearing itself was an odd mix of community activist revival meeting -- thanks to the many anti-consolidation activists mobilized by local, regional and national grassroots organizations -- and big media schmoozefest. I constantly found myself running into people I hadn't seen in person for years; a pleasant side effect from years of covering media in this town.
In the end, there was no way I could fit all the public comments-- which ranged from former Tampa mayor Dick Greco to former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis -- into my newspaper story. So I thought I'd throw some up on the blog for further perusal.
Let's start with my fave, 27-year-old Brandy Doyle, a freelance reporter for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune who had the stones to stand up and condemn media consolidation at the New York Times Regional Media Group-owned newspaper:
"Dailies like the Herald Tribune cut corners by outsourcing much of their local news coverage to freelancers like myself...I have no professional contact with others who write for the paper, I get no feedback from my editor, and I have never been asked to write a second draft of a story...The Herald Tribune isn't a bad paper. But unfortunately, it is a typical one...uncovering and exploring local issues just doesn't fit into the business model of today's media outlets."
Bill Carey, general manager of WFTS-Ch. 28: "Anyone with a computer can now compete in local news...(he tells story of a 15-year-old who films news events in his neighborhood and posts to a Web site)...He sticks to local news, and local news for him is what happens in his neighborhood. That's the future challenge to ownership and market share. In the past, a 15-year-old delivered the news by throwing it on your doorstep. Today, he brings it to your TV screen."
Robert Dardenne, journalism professor, University of South Florida St. Petersburg: "Economy of scale -- certainly in news content -- shows little indication that it helps people who use news nearly as much as it does those who produce it...Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) admirably covered the lead up to the Iraq War...(But) critics amply demonstrate that coverage of most other major media significantly promoted government viewpoints and restricted access to other perspectives. This powerfully illustrates the potentially disastrous weakness of a dominant media willing to sacrifice journalistic principles for economic gain."
Jim Davis, former U.S. Representative now working for law firm which represents some TV stations: "I opposed much of the relaxation of ownership limits....There's a lot of people here because they don't think their voice is being heard....(But) there has been more hard news and quality of coverage (in Media General's convergence). We're allowing the future of the newspaper industry by allowing cross-ownership."
Steve Wilson, former investigative reporter at WTVT-Ch. 13, who sued the station amid claims he was fired over a tough story on chemical giant Monsanto: "At one of this market's leading stations, decisions about which issues to cover have been second-guessed and controlled by the parent company 800 miles away. And I'm not talking just about some corporate news executive who directs decisions at some two dozen stations the group owns in several states...I'm talking corporate marketing men deciding what news viewers will and will not see."
In the interests of fairness...
Here's one activist's take on trying to watch the hearings through a Media General web portal.
And here's an op-ed the Tampa Tribune published Sunday from the Tampa market manager for Clear Channel Radio, which owns eight radio stations in our market and -- surprise! -- favors loosening media ownership rules.
Here's my preview story from Sunday on the whole shebang.