samedi, août 08, 2009

Our town?

When a crisis in Philly gets into the New York Times Magazine, you know we've got a problem. Michael Sokolove, a former reporter for the Inquirer, has written a reasonably brisk but empathetic piece on the potentially terminal problems at our beloved home town paper.

I have to say that I've been in denial as to how serious the problems are -- when I meet with friends who used to work at the paper and one who still does this week, I'll have lots of questions.

In hindsight, I've been a bit player at the Inquirer in good times and in not so good ones. More than 15 years ago, I wrote my first commentary for the paper. Then a friend hired me to write book rewiews. More commentaries, until the section for suburban news disappeared. I have a T-shirt from the defunct Neighbors, the section for which I wrote last summer.

But I have been exceptionally fortunate, above all, in the friends that I've made, some of whom have been mentors, and some of whom I am still proud to call friends. Their almost monklike commitment to the art of reporting and editing has been and is a huge inspiration to me. It's difficult to see them retire early, or wonder if they will be pastured out into the public relations or nonprofit wilderness.

There's a lot of sausage being manufactured right now, as the paper's owners, owing huge amounts of money, try to keep them from going belly up. Those who diss mainstream journalism as being liberal/biased/old-fashioned need may feel a little different if, in a year or so, the upstart tabloid and paper of record in our town are gone. Soon we might be forced to rely on bloggers (God forbid!!), and local sites that give you the news in slivers -- leaving readers starving for a vision that was once as big as our town. And even, on its best days, as large as the world that it once covered.

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