Here we go again: Want news? You lose…

NORWALK — If you are a regular Norwalk Daily Voice reader, you probably won’t notice much difference. You will still be able to find out if a storm is on the way, who is hiring, what “for sale” houses will be on display this weekend and, most importantly, what to do this weekend and what to do this week.

You will still be able to see what The Daily Norwalk’s Facebook friends think about potholes and gun control and the like, and, five days a week, you will be able to find out what The Daily Voice and the Norwalk Police Department think were the most important and interesting police reports the day before.

Maybe a few times a week you also will find out what the esteemed city leaders decided on your behalf the night before.

It might not be first. It seldom is. And it might have a few more typos, and it might have a few more “holes” in the stories – what we editors call those parts of the story that leave readers with lingering questions.

But that is the way things are today in the news business. Clicks over quality. Just the icing, with no cake. Lots of stenography with no probing questions. Don’t rock the boat, baby; don’t tip the boat over.

Newspapers are dying, we are told. The world is moving online. Newspapers are irrelevant.

Now we have Patch and The Daily Voice and other corporate online chains following in the tradition of their print forerunners – they are dumbing down their products, shrinking their staffs and their offerings and putting quality on a back burner in search of profit.

I was laid off Monday morning, along with nearly two dozen other journalists across Fairfield and Westchester counties and 11 towns in Massachusetts. Five of those journalists were middle-aged or older, each with decades of experience and credits that included The New York Daily News, the Boston Herald and other significant regional papers, people who knew the difference between journalism and stenography.

In Central Massachusetts, 11 communities lost their community news sites. Many of those sites dated back to 2009, when Jack Schofield and Jenn Lord Paluzzi set up a news group that was bought just a bit more than 1 ½ years ago. Two months ago The Daily Voice shut down a couple sites and opened a couple new ones. Monday, it locked the doors on all 11 sites.

In Westchester, there used to be three managing editors for 30-plus sites. The editors were supposed to supervise reporters, assure quality news judgments, quality writing, and quick responses by a group made up of mostly young reporters. Today there is one managing editor.

There is one ME in Fairfield, too. And one less sports reporter (now there are none) and one less news reporter (two if you count the guy they bounced a week ago).

This is the path trod by print papers en route to the tar pits, folks. And if you are reading this site, you are among those who know you deserve better.

Independent sites, like this one, are becoming the last refuge for journalists who don’t want to stop with the sound bites and the spin. Sure, that wrankles some folks in this age of all-or-nothing politics and cable channels that stridently color things red or blue. But, fact is, the idea is to speak truth to power, to not allow the powerful to get so powerful that they have free rein to do as they please.

Corporate media takes scads of money from private interests and from businesses that may then appear to get special treatment. Little independents must struggle to survive. And unless they get donations and grants, they will quickly fade, leaving the surface-skimmers to half-fill the void.

And that serves no one, except, perhaps the powerful themselves.


4 responses to “Here we go again: Want news? You lose…”

  1. Debora

    Welcome Mark! We look forward to more quality reporting from this site.

  2. Anon

    I wouldn’t blame corporate greed. You rely solely on advertising rather than a subscription based model, the ad revenue isn’t enough to cover the costs of quality journalism. Thank the internet.

    1. Mark Chapman

      I agree. The Internet has given everyone a sense that it should all be free. We have a subscription-based site in Englewood, Fla., that began in 2009. We did the first 6 months free, but let readers know up front there would be a subscription fee later. We had a terrfic 6 months, then lost 75 percent of the regular readers when they were asked to pay $7 a month. It was a full-service site, with the full spectrum of news, features, events… lots of Nancy’s great pics. The only way to make online local sites sustainable, I believe, is the grant and donation model, supplemented by some ads. We will be adding a donation portal soon.

  3. Ergo

    I found it interesting that this very topic popped up on Gawker today.

    I will say, as a loyal Daily Voice reader the site has completely tanked since Nancy left. The lack of reporting, real stories about the Budget, the BOE debacle, and our past his expiration date Mayor have all but disappered. But if I need to find an open house or read articles about bamboo, that’s the place to go!

    Mark & Nancy, I will follow you both no matter where you go! Keep up the good work, Norwalk NEEDS you both!

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