The corporate war on news
I was dismayed late last week to hear about another round of layoffs at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Now, you may be asking yourself, why does the Burleson Star care about the Star-Telegram. Well settle back and let me have your undivided attention because it does matter. It matters a great deal. You see, the Star-Telegram used to be the gold standard for papers in the Fort Worth area. They employed a great number of reporters, editors, designers and ad staff. It used to be that a young reporter got their start at a smaller newspaper and once they paid his or her dues and got some awards under their belt, they’d move on to the Star-Telegram or the Dallas Morning News. The S-T was the pride of the small, but robust news industry in Fort Worth.
That’s not how it is now.
The Star-Telegram is owned by the McClatchy Company, based in Sacramento, California. They operate in 30 markets and have over 65 million monthly readers. According to an op-ed by D Magazine writer Tim Rogers, three of the S-T’s eight editors were laid off last week. Every month, whispers and rumors make the rounds in the North Texas newspaper industry of what is going on at the S-T. More and more people get laid off. People who have worked at the S-T for decades and have strong loyalties and ties to the paper. Now, that loyalty has been severed by a corporation that only worries about the bottom dollar and less about local news. The company reported a loss of $38.9 million dollars during its first quarter of the year.
I have friends that have worked or currently work at the S-T. They describe the paper as a ghost town.
“I worked for the Star-Telegram right out of the gate from college, back in the 90’s during its heyday,” said KR, the editor of a North Texas community paper. “There I learned the gold standards of journalism first hand, from staffers who had been in Fort Worth their whole lives and talented recruits from around the country. The Star-Telegram prided itself on being the voice and watchdog for its community.
“Now, I look at a paper that was a shell of what it once used to be, slowly dismantling a proud newsroom and sports department, and outsourcing the decision making to some guy in the Midwest named Chuck who’s never been to the Stockyards or Mayfest or the Colonial Golf Tournament.
“The current ownership of the S-T not only has no clue about the pulse of a city, they obviously don’t care that they don’t have a clue.
“Make no mistake, these opportunists that are running the media companies such as Digital First Media (The Denver Post), McClatchy (The Fort Worth Star-Telegram), and CNHI (The Cleburne Times-Review and the Weatherford Democrat, among others) have ZERO intention of serving their communities. They’re strip mining, plain and simple. And the journalists that haven’t been laid off are hostages as they watch the papers they love get dismantled. As a former S-T employee, I can tell you that the current downhill spiral is painful to watch.”
With less staff, it is obvious that the skeleton crew at the S-T are overwhelmed. You can see mistakes in content posted online and publishing content on their social media for the sake of having content. Some of that content does not even relate to the Fort Worth area. That could be because McClatchy considers Fort Worth to be a part of its “Midwest” market. Apparently, they have never seen a map.
“The whole situation is disgusting. The staffing cuts would be justifiable if they were being done to keep the doors open, but they aren’t,” said DC, a reporter for a newspaper on the outskirts of Fort Worth. “They are taking place to further line the pockets of investors who don’t care about the communities -- McClatchy has executives who think Fort Worth is part of the Midwest for heaven’s sake, who don’t care about the readers, and who clearly could not care less about their staff. It is ironic that the ability of local journalists to fight corruption in government is being hindered by the same types of people who are typically the ones benefiting from that corruption.”
In addition to a corporate war on newspapers, those of you who are active social-media users, maybe you have heard of a “little” company called Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sinclair owns 192 TV stations and has 611 channels in 89 markets. Tell me that’s not a monopoly. A video made the rounds in April of Sinclair anchors reading a corporate-written script basically saying, “you can’t trust the media, but you can trust us.” See the problem here?
So, again, why does this matter to the people of Burleson? Because local, independent news matters and we need your help. Without support from subscribers and advertisers, we won’t be there to cover school board elections, Founder’s Day, or other community events. We are people, just like you, who are passionate about their jobs. Do me a favor; if you are already a subscriber, gift a subscription of the Burleson Star to a friend, neighbor, child or grandchild. You can call us at 817-295-0486 and we will get you set up.
If you want to know what is going on in Burleson, you need to read the Burleson Star.
Bethann “Coldheart” Coldiron is the editor of the Burleson Star.