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Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - News - T ▶ By Marc Wilso n colum­nist

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A friend re­cently asked me if I missed be­ing an ac­tive jour­nal­ist “with all that is hap­pen­ing today?”

My an­swer was an em­phatic “no!” The last score of years has been a terrible time for tra­di­tional jour­nal­ists be­cause of lay­offs, the emer­gence of so­cial media blog­gers, and an in­creas­ingly sharp left-right di­vi­sion of ma­jor media out­lets who seem to care more about po­lit­i­cal agen­das than fair- ness and ac­cu­racy.

A re­tired vet­eran jour­nal­ist re­cently com­mented that find­ing a “main­stream media out­let will­ing to re­port without an agenda… (is) tougher to find than a $2 steak.” Maybe an over­state­ment, but a widely shared one.

Today’s au­di­ences seem to be sharply di­vided into camps. In the left cor­ner is MSNBC, The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Huff­in­g­ton Post, left-wing blog­gers, etc., all de­ter­mined to de­stroy Pres­i­dent Trump and other con­ser­va­tives.

In the right cor­ner is Fox News, Rush Limbaugh (and most of talk ra­dio), the Washington Ex­am­iner, Bre­it­bart News, and rightwing blog­gers, etc. They are de­ter­mined to un­der­mine the cred­i­bil­ity of the so-called “main­stream” or “drive-by media” which they claim are fully al­lied with the Demo­cratic Party.

TV talk shows and ca­ble news net­works of­ten fea­ture more po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives than jour­nal­ists on their pan­els. Al­most all are pre­dictable in their po­si­tions and ques­tions.

My old em­ployer—The Associated Press—long has tried to fill the role of neu­tral ar­biter of the news. That’s a role that is in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to play as the num­ber of tra­di­tional jour­nal­ists de­clines.

Most of those old-fash­ioned jour­nal­ists are gone now—re­tired, purged in news­pa­per and wire ser­vice lay­offs, or fled to pub­lic re­la­tions jobs. The once-great news mag­a­zines are mere shad­ows of their pre­vi­ous glory days. Copy edit­ing is an art mostly lost to the world.

Lo­cal news used to be cov­ered in many cities by news­pa­per “beat re­porters” who spe­cial­ized in cov­er­age of city hall, courts, cops, ed­u­ca­tion, busi­ness, state house, in­ves­tiga­tive, pol­i­tics, etc. They of­ten worked for highly skilled and de­mand­ing ed­i­tors.

Today, most pa­pers (and broad­cast out­lets) have fewer re­porters who—be­cause of lim­ited re­sources—rely in­creas­ingly on press re­leases and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to feed them story leads and de­tails.

When I worked for the AP, the mem­bers (news­pa­pers, TV and ra­dio sta­tions) (usu­ally) gladly shared their news with the AP. But

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