The headline and lead paragraph from the San Francisco Chronicle say it all:
Tonight at 11, news by neighbors:
Santa Rosa TV station fires news staff, to ask local folks to provide programming
Steve Spendlove realizes that after last month's layoffs of most of the news-gathering staff at tiny KFTY-TV in Santa Rosa there will be less local coverage. The Clear Channel executive overseeing the station knows there won't be reporters to investigate local scandals, let alone do those fluffy woman-turns-100 features that make TV anchors cock their heads and smile at the end of a newscast.
It is especially troubling when you pair it with the ethical levels that journalists are expected to maintain while covering news. If you have been reading the Sunday NYT their ombudsman has been addressing freelancer ethics questions for almost a month now. In the NPPA magazine New Photographer there is a column that covers ethics training and then a paper’s announcement about using reader generated content.
Let me be very clear, I think reader/viewer generated content and participation is important for the future. The important cutoff line for me is news. I think readers blogs and columns are good ideas. I would draw the line for user generated work at news coverage, perhaps even at spot news coverage, although that is becoming a grayer line.
So, when does cheap, untrained and potentially biased start to threaten how we think of news in this country?