MARCH 10, 2019
“THE DEATH OF LOCAL NEWS TAKES PLACE EACH WEEK – EVEN RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES!”
That is the headline in articles published in online trade journals that profess that public monies should be used to provide local newspapers, much like NPR.
That is a load of BALONEY.
Most of those who profess to see the dearth of local newspapers, the death of many, and the weekly parade of their demise can’t figure it out.
Many blame the growth of the tech giants Facebook and Google soaking up national advertising and leaving crumbs on the table for small-town newspapers.
That isn’t it.
Many blame the lack of ad dollars from local advertisers for the folding of some 1,400 newspapers across America in the last decade.
That isn’t it either.
Pompous online media analysis think-tanks like Nieman Labs, from Harvard, don’t have a clue. Many of their articles always blame the big corporate owners who have bought up and ravaged newspapers of their real estate assets while stripping out the newsroom of staff as the problem.
Nieman doesn’t stand a chance of figuring it out as they just don’t know what the reader wants in a local newspaper.
Why are they all wrong, confused and perplexed at understanding their own industry?
One of the reasons is many of these news media folks racked up substantial student loans to go to journalism schools where they learned lessons of sameness, boredom, pomposity, arrogance, and adherence to elitism. They’ll be the first to preach global warming, and if you refuse to accept their arguments, they’ll condemn you to re-education camps such as have been operated by totalitarian regimes in history.
What these excellent journalists never learned is to satisfy the desire of people to know what is really going on in their communities.
Folks want to know where the emergency sirens were going last night.
Police agencies across America have taken the self-serving action to encrypt their emergency channels so the public can’t hear of a home invasion taking place down the street from them. Cop officials claim that is for “officer safety” – which is a bogus argument.
Police agencies have always had encrypted channels to use for sensitive situations such as a drug raid or barricade. The encryption trend has been merely to deny accountability to the public and at the same time is actually dangerous. If a neighbor of a residence where a home invasion is underway can hear that call on their scanner, they can look out the window and perhaps get a tag number and a good description of the criminal’s vehicle, and thereby aid the police. A citizen can be the first responder to an officer trapped in a wreck of a cruiser, upside down and in danger of drowning in a ditch – but only if the call for help is not encrypted.
Without a local newspaper to stand up to power-hungry police officials and Sheriff’s who have created their own “official” news agencies with tax dollars, pumping out feel-good public relations propaganda, the citizen has little to go on to separate fact from political baloney. Believe me, when the public has to rely upon the press releases of publicly paid former reporters acting as public affairs officers for crooked or good old boy politicians – watch out.
Where were the local newspapers when it came to be sorting out the crooked land deals between elected officials and developers? Many times, these newspapers and their vapid reporters were in the pockets of such conspirators.
Often the news reporter didn’t understand the complexities of development and was too busy pontificating to readers about their social justice beliefs to learn how much corrupt money flows with sewage lines. They didn’t know how to equate road deals paid for by taxpayers lining the pockets of developers who would slide dough in a myriad of ways to politicians who arranged those deals.
When large chains came into a community and bought out second and third generation family-owned newspapers and radio stations, the chains hired the cheap reporters right out of journalism school, who didn’t have a clue about anything, but their leftist ideals which were firmly entrenched in their mindsets. The old family run newspapers were shed by those who never earned a living and couldn’t wait to cash out after Mom and Pop kicked the bucket.
Each time a national media chain has bought a local newspaper, the transaction created an immediate opportunity for a local entrepreneur to start a newspaper, a person who knows the local community and can obtain the local advertiser support to make it work.
Big city chains buying up brewing companies across America ruined local beer. Craft brewers have saved local beer. It’s as simple as that.
Giving the reader the down and dirty on crime and politics, as if there is much difference – is what makes a newspaper work.
One of the most famous news stories of all time came about because two rookie reporters followed up on the police investigation of a third-rate burglary of an office in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. Lucky for us that the District of Columbia police hadn’t encrypted their dispatch calls on the air.
How many times has a reader picked up a local newspaper and seen photos of barns, flower beds full of tulips in the spring or other mundane events instead of actual news? I have a policy in place for the last twenty-nine years that there will never be a photo of a barn on the front page unless the damn thing is on fire or has a small plane sticking out of the side of it.
Alan Henney, a long-time news hound who runs a beach report from Rehobeth, Delaware for four months out of the year and does breaking news reports in the Washington area the balance of the year, noted that I included “night news reporters” in my inaugural column of NIGHT SHIFT. “We still have any?” he asked.
I can’t account for how many still exist, other than a few freelancers who sell video to major TV stations, but I suppose there are, at least I can affirm that I remain in that count as hardly a night goes by that news of crime is not covered in THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY. We have the best and most productive criminals in the world in the Chesapeake region.
In short, all it takes for a local newspaper to thrive – and many do – is for the paper to have a commitment to cover local government and local crime with no holds barred. When that happens, local advertisers will support the endeavor, as they know that is where the readers are, and readers will buy it and then be in a position to make up their own minds – uncluttered by government press releases and Facebook pages run by politicians.
A town without local news coverage is a town ripe for corruption.
The very worst thing that could happen is for liberal politicians to have anything to do with funding news operations through tax dollars in some sort of murky Frankenstein creation as proposed by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. “Bonehead” Ben’s idea, if implemented, would be the first step to government-run and controlled news produced by mental midgets. They could only evolve into political cesspools of misinformation with the dedicated purpose of indoctrination of the public to “approved” points of view.
What we need to restore local newspapers are entrepreneurs committed to providing local news coverage without any Associated Press filler stories. Anyone can get the AP baloney anywhere, what they can’t get is hard-knuckled investigative reporting of their local government agencies, judicial and law enforcement. Stories about a Sheriff who hires his campaign director in a new state-funded local opioid crisis director position in each county of Maryland. In that county, the money was used as a political payoff for a crony instead of tackling the heroin and fentanyl problem. Never let a politician fail to take advantage of a crisis to grab political cash.
Such stories need to be told by reporters who are hired for talent, not for the leftist political social-justice dogmatic views. The best way to flush them out is to require a prospective reporter to sit down and compose an extemporaneous essay on the Bill of Rights. No Google, no cheating.
If that would-be reporter is not familiar with the Bill of Rights, how can he or she possibly be a news reporter? If they begin with a tirade against the Second Amendment, how can they possibly follow the rules laid down by an Editor or respect the constitutional rights of citizens for free assembly, protection from warrantless search or the right of due process?
Ben Bradlee once told me when he was asked what he thought of the historic GOP takeover of Congress in 1994, that resulted of the turnover from the forty-years of control by Democrats would be that “any reporter worth his salt could fill his lunch pail each day.”
That is true today.
I was told by a great TV news director in DC that an eight-minute column in NIGHT SHIFT was too long and that view might be correct in the confines of television. However, making an argument that is worthwhile sometimes just takes longer, and that’s why this one might be about ten minutes.
Thanks for joining the NIGHT SHIFT and we’ll see you next time.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
The above is a great editorial about the state of reporting and especially the lost, or disappearing, the role of local newspapers in our nation now. It is an editorial that is written by the owner/editor/publisher/reporter/photographer/distributor/ and solicitor of ads to run the newspaper in rural Southern Maryland just outside of DC. He built a newspaper that started off considered that area’s own “National Enquirer like Tabloid” but through his dogged determination, he built a paper that was read by more people in that area that were the long-established local newspapers in those 3 counties. Ultimately he sold the newspaper naming a price to the person who pursued the purchasing of that newspaper ardently demanding he names a price. So he named a price he thought would make the “gentleman” back off. He didn’t and in fact, promptly paid the price and then went about slowly killing the newspaper. Why do you ask? Because he owned a local spring, summer, fall bar that had two huge bashes each year in the sleepy little town of Solomon’s Island. It started small but before I retired required the 3 Sheriff’s agencies to join together sending extra officers down to assist the agency in which this small town was located, along with a heavy contingent of Maryland State Troopers from around the state, with additional officers heavy patrolling the limited highways in and out of that county for drunk and drugged driving. In fact, a temporary police headquarters would be set up in the town with all those agencies working together as one under joint command. Also joining in was the DEA, FBI, and other federal law enforcement agencies and special task forces because the event drew druggies, biker gangs (the true 1 percenter ones), want to be biker gangs, drug dealers and all kinds of other people to party and raise hell.
So what did that have to do with the sale and killing off of that editor’s former newspaper? That Editor reported in his unique style bringing so much heat and outcry to the County government of the county in which this establishment, even to the State Legislature, demanding action after every one of these twice-yearly bashes and the growing cost of policing the event that when he put the paper up for sale the leading purchaser and eventual successful purchaser was the very owner of that bar. (The new owner closed ST. MARY’S TODAY after eight months and losing one million dollars after changing from hard news to fluff and changing the name.)
After a very successful retirement during which he became a rather busy author of books and becoming an acknowledged authority on the sinking the Titanic, and other historical events of the sea he became a, and continues all these activities, a lecturer on cruise ships traveling all over the world with his family. But the lure of the small local paper failed to properly retire so he dusted off a small local fishing and hunting newspaper he had created in 1988 and has begun to turn it into another no holds barred newspaper, THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY, that calls a spade a spade and exposes politicians, sweetheart backroom deals, crooks, DWI Drivers, Druggies, Corruption and shoddy performance of duty by all government employees, including police, fire, teachers, etc., etc..
Because of the above, he is one of the few people qualified to write, and substantiate what his editorial cries out to you and I. For those reasons I urge you to read his editorial.
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
(March 5, 2019) Every day about the time that most folks finish dinner and prepare to watch TV go to check for a movie or game or check their email, a hardy group of souls is waking to their alarm clock. They may be reaching for their phone to quiet a buzzer or happy song announcing that it’s time to get up, get dressed, fix coffee and have a breakfast burrito or some other late evening sustenance.
For this group of people work the night shift.
Nurses, doctors, tow truck drivers, Metro drivers, police officers, firefighters, medics and EMTs, security guards, night news reporters, technicians, utility crews and the young and old who work in donut shops, brave the punks and gunmen who might confront them on this shift as they work in a convenience store.
By nine o’clock, they are all on the move. Some have shifts that start at ten, many at eleven and most at midnight. They all work the night shift. Some love it, others hate it, all adjust to the waking in the dark, and going to bed when it’s light outside. For most, they have no choice, a few select the night shift for a variety of reasons.
Traffic is light going to work. Many start the trek to work in the hills of the Blue Ridge, what students in the ’50s learned in school was the ‘fall line,’ at a time when learning about geography – the names of rivers, seas, mountain ranges, and such things as Piedmont and Tidewater – was significant. Now people live in such areas as the Tidewater region and may not even know that designation.
Driving from Front Royal, Winchester, Salisbury, Harrisburg, and Hagerstown, they drive to work at jobs stocking shelves at Walmart, making sandwiches at Wawa and changing soiled bedclothes at hospitals. Doctors began to triage gunshot victims in hospitals in Baltimore, Cheverly, Norfolk, Richmond, Washington, and Wilmington.
As the night peaks in the next couple of hours after midnight, the bars let out, the drunks take to the road, many make it home okay, some do not and manage to hit trees, utility poles and careen down embankments while a few smash head-on into other vehicles. The Grim Reaper is on the night shift too. As the EMT’s, cops and firefighters try to figure out who is still breathing, the Reaper decides who is going with him. The ghoul and the newly dead will make the first stop on the cold hard slab in the Medical Examiner’s office – of course taking a number in the queue of death.
The tow truck drivers roll up with roll-ons and stretch their cables down hillsides and crane and wrench apart metal from impacts which often roared to a stop at over one hundred miles an hour.
Firefighters roar through city streets with sirens screaming, horns blaring and people, dogs, and vehicles scurrying out of their path. Buildings roaring with flames and billowing smoke making it impossible to see, heroes, don their masks and pull heavy hoses to attack the fire and began a search to save forlorn souls on the verge of giving up hope but holding out for salvation. Older apartment complexes built before modern construction codes were enacted go off like tinderboxes without any sprinklers to dampen the fire and give residents a chance to flee – but the developer was able to save on the cost of construction. Donating campaign contributions to the politicians to stall or defeat new laws on enacting stricter codes was just a cost of doing business. It was worth the money. But such shenanigans aren’t on the minds of those trying to get out of their burning apartments or the heroes trying to save them. Just another part of the night shift.
Cops speed towards a bloody scene in a home where a man has finally done it and killed his battered wife. So many times, she didn’t appear in court to pursue orders to keep him away from the family home. She had no choice – how would she make the rent payment, pay for groceries and the car payment and then there was the insurance. He said he would love her forever and never touch her again. Her family told her to leave the S.O.B but where would she go? Her paycheck from her job alone wasn’t enough to pay for her and her three children. If his boss learned that he was convicted of assault, he would lose his security clearance and then his job. So, she didn’t go to court. Now she will meet the Reaper. The cops have him down on the lawn, handcuffed and will have to hogtie him get him to keep from kicking out the side window of the patrol car. She is dead. He will get a public defender, and spend twenty years in prison, the kids will be farmed out to family or foster homes. On his way home at the end of the shift, a citizen will buy the cop his breakfast in the diner and thank him for protecting the community. Another citizen will mutter the F word and ‘damn cops’ as he leaves to walk to his car for the drive home to sleep.
One such night shift in the nation is a police officer, Alabama Highway Patrol Sgt. Robert Burroughs, who was at his home on Sunday afternoon, March 3, 2019, when an AF 4 tornado with winds at about 174 mph ripped a swath a mile wide and twenty-four miles long in Lee County.
Mid-afternoon is prime sleeping time for those who work the night shift.
March and April are also prime time for tornados such as the EF 5 that ripped through Southern Maryland on April 28, 2002, killing six people.
Sgt. Burroughs was critically injured, and his wife Sandi suffered minor injuries. Alabama Law Enforcement Agency confirmed he is stationed at the Opelika Post and now is in intensive care at the East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama. His home is gone, his state patrol cruiser sits off to one side of where his home used to be, with branches strewn across it, but perhaps not totaled.
The family of Sgt. Burroughs has set up a GOFUNDME page to request donations to assist Sandi, and Robby Burroughs recover from their injuries and to rebuild their home. Help Sgt. Robby Burroughs recover his home and go back to work on the night shift.
Thank you for joining us tonight on the Night Shift, we’ll see you next time.