Jim Hopkins at the Gannettblog had an interesting post recently discussing a study that states that America is facing a "shortage of local, professional accountability reporting."
We don't have enough reporters covering local and state level government. Cincinnati audiences have a handful of reporters covering nearly all of the local governments on a regular basis. Some reporters from TV sometimes will add some coverage of local governments, but nothing consistent.
The cause of this shortage is obviously the debatable issue. People will blame corporations, exclusively, or blame one political party over the other. The group that deserves most of the blame, as I have said often, is the audience.
At this year's Cincinnati Fringe Festival an edgy production called Music for Newspapers and Radios illustrated this issue quite well. At one point in the show, four actors read out loud different portions of that day's Cincinnati Enquirer. One person read the sports section out loud. Another read the TV listings, while still another read out the crossword puzzle. The fourth was reading the front page story on the State budget deal. She was passionate about it and felt the importance of the story and read it louder to the others so they might pay attention. They were oblivious and stuck to the entertainment they had before them. As if almost in a trance, they focused on sports, TV, or the crossword and ignored her rising voice issuing a news story that would affect them. It was important for them to know what it said, but being entertained was more important. After while the front page news reader tired and just fell asleep with the others. She gave up.
News outlets have given up trying. They are giving people what they want and they want to be amused. They don't care about consuming news that actually will have an impact on their community and would be needed to make choices on who should run the government. The idea of not having to think and just buying a pre-made idea is so much easier for our mindless consumer and image based society.
Our local news is at risk and when it dies, neither American Idol or ESPN will carry the story.