May 2009

Out of Sight, Out of News

We depend on our local media to tell us what our local sports teams did last night, what the weather will be like tomorrow, and if there’s crime in our neighborhood.  Over the last 25 years, we’ve come to rely on a relatively small group of media outlets to provide us the rest of the news we need from around the world.  CNN, Fox News, the BBC, the Associated Press, ThompsonReuters and of course the U.S. broadcast networks of ABC, CBS and NBC are the best known.

We like to think that these major news operations cover all the important issues, wherever they may happen, from war to famine to economic difficulties.  But unfortunately, in recent years, many of these media outlets have been hit by the same economic challenges that local newspapers are battling.

That’s forced them to make hard choices, about what they cover, and how long they cover stories.  Many news organizations have been forced to cut staff worldwide and reporting teams are often deployed overseas for shorter periods than in the past.  We’ve also seen some news bureaus closed completely in some countries.

In the U.S., many news outlets rode out the 2008 election cycle, but then completely closed their Washington D.C. bureaus.  Television networks that once operated satellite bureaus in a dozen U.S. cities are now cutting back to the top markets (NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami) and relying more on local affiliates to provide them with regional stories.  And even in a major market like Atlanta, some of the national bureaus have just a handful of full time staffers.

Distance also plays a huge factor.  National reporters based in the U.S. cities have seen their travel budgets cut back, so if you’ve got a national story you want told, you’re much more likely to get attention from a reporter in NYC, Chicago or Atlanta than in Nashville, or Phoenix or Denver.

International coverage can be even more of challenge.  The biggest news stories get covered wherever they happen in the world, like the terrorist attacks in Mumbai or last month’s hijacking of a U.S.-flagged cargo ship.  But regular coverage of parts of the world where it’s difficult or dangerous to travel is limited.  For example, CNN International has an excellent weekly program called Inside Africa, but the show doesn’t air in CNN’s U.S. feed.  Regular coverage of much of Africa is hampered by the long distances reporters need to travel, the difficulty of that travel, and of course the dangers involved.

Of course, there’s also the ongoing argument over what news should be covered in Brian Williams’ 22 minute newscast.  How much Brittany or how much Octo-Mom is too much?

Moves & News

Associated Press – AP’s Georgia bureau reports they have decreased their weekend staffing. They have a limited staff working Saturdays and Sunday coverage is being handled by the Alabama bureau (and visa versa).

Atlanta magazine – Virginia Parker is leaving the magazine.

Atlanta Business Chronicle – Check out Urvaksh Karkaria’s blog, AtlanTech.  You can join up by clicking on a link on the paper’s web site.  Tip:  He’s always looking for deal-related tech or healthcare stories, particularly if it involves venture capital funding.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution – Staff writer Kirsten Tagami has left the paper.  If you’ve worked in Atlanta for some time, you probably worked with Richard Whitt.  Whitt passed away recently.  He worked at the AJC from 1989 – 2006.  You may have noticed as well that the paper has launched a redesigned web site at http://www.ajc.com.

Champion – Andy Phelan has left the paper to become communications director for Congressman Hank Johnson.

Gwinnett Magazine – Dana Urritria is now editor.

WGST – Several staffers have been let go due to cutbacks, including longtime reporters and managers Randall Bloomquist, Matt McClure and David Hull.

Arrivals

Girl on the Go – Jan Schroder has launched a new blog focusing on travel.  She continues her job as Managing Editor/Web Editor of travelgirl magazine, but is also covering travel on her blog, general travel on Mondays, all-things Atlanta on Wednesdays and other topics such as product reviews and book publishing on Fridays (www.janschroder.com/blog).

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