Letter to the editor
I read your editorial in the latest Star, and I agree. Very well said. It’s sad and disheartening. I graduated with a journalism degree from UTA in 1986, and no one could have known then what was on the horizon for newspapers. Dallas had two major dailies then, and the “Startlegram,” as we called it, was the pride of Cowtown. I worked for The Arlington Daily News right out of college and freelanced for the Morning News and FWST. You could find me every Friday night in some high school press box stringing football games for either DMN or FWST.
I felt like I was “selling out” when I decided to move to Austin and become editor of the monthly magazine for the Texas Association of School Boards. It was a money decision; family on the way, and the pay here was quite a bit more than the dailies were offering. I was sad to leave the dailies. But now I look at the industry and just shake my head. A lot of factors, for sure, but mainly the Internet has utterly destroyed the world as we once knew it. Not just newspapers but all sorts of publishing. I’ve written four novels--only one came close to mainstream publishing. Agent Harriet Wasserman (Saul Bellow’s old agent) in NYC took my work under her wing and was convinced at least a boutique publisher would take it on. We came close but no cigar--and the odds kept getting greater against us as the Internet took hold. Publishers--and literary agents--are dying a slow death, as are print newspapers. College friends and colleagues of mine have either left the field completely or are scrambling to make ends meet. “Spouse” was actually mini-syndicated by me for a while there, but one by one, the community papers that ran it died.
And as you noted in your editorial, the death of community papers carries the great risk of corruption and malfeasance. If local reporters aren’t around to shine the light on local corruption, we have opened the door to a world of fraud, deceit, and backroom criminal behavior by anyone and everyone in power. And with the fracturing of news sources--everyone seems to have their “favorite” social media news source these days (which only reinforces already-held beliefs and challenges nothing)--true inspiration for healthy and robust debate, real impetus for necessary change, and meaningful checks and balances on wrongdoing and oppressive behavior by the strong over the weak are all left to wither.
As wonderful a potential as the advent of social media carried with it, it has also meant the downfall of true investigative reporting--especially on the local level--and left the landscape mostly barren for creative artists wishing to make a living at their craft.