Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More on the Situation at Our Crumbling Local Newspaper

Normally, your editor relies on British weekly The Economist for news about the world, usually over afternoon tea, one hand holding the magazine and the other hooking a Derby Porcelain tea cup and occasionally setting it down on a Derby Porcelain saucer so I can better pet my noble Landseer, Boatswain.

Pictured above: Boatswain

But when I want to know stuff pertaining to my hometown (Thrashers news, the occasional write-up about some art show or Salman Rushdie lecture at Emory, etc.), I peruse the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The AJC isn't what it once was, sadly. The paper that gave the world Cynthia Tucker and Mike Lukovitch (good things, in my opinion, though I realize many of you would disagree) has dumbed down its content over the years, even though it retains those two Pulitzer-winners and a man who surely deserves the Pulitzer, our friend Rawhide.

The AJC's recent moves have confirmed that it intends only to dumb itself down further, which will surely only alienate the people who should be its core demographic. Its core demographic being, as a commentator at Creative Loafing puts it, "people who READ, people with a certain curiosity about the world, people who are willing to read a publication which sometimes tells them things they don’t want to hear." Indeed.

- The entire editorial board, apparently, has been taken over by the paper's executives (the paper's editorials were too liberal, went the age-old complaint) and star writers like Tucker have been kicked out of town.

- Meanwhile, its already-depleting arts coverage is likely to be non-existent from now on: several art and music critics accepted the same buy-out as Mike Knobler. The book reviews were eliminated a long time ago, and all staff-written film reviews have been replaced with wire copy.

- A not-terribly-popular sport like hockey will no longer have its own beat writer; the guy covering the Thrashers now, Chris Vivlamore, is simply the editor of the Pro Sports section taking on an additional responsibility.

The spectacle of various editors taking on broader, if not deeper, writing responsibilities is only one symptom of the AJC's sad decline. It's this bottom-line/lowest-common-denominator thinking, the tactic of making the paper's style, tone, and coverage bland and watered-down and "more acceptable," that has wrecked the AJC. Far more than, as I've seen many people allege (including on the Thrashers message board) a Maoist editorial board or the hideous offense of covering issues that involve black people in a majority-black city.

I guarantee you the majority of the hockey coverage, like the majority of the arts coverage at present, will very soon be replaced with wire copy. The "new" Thrashers beat writer is a side show. I'm sure he's a fine writer and he'll do a professional job, but it's not like the Thrashers REALLY have a beat writer anymore.

Just saying. Let's boogie!

Erykah Badu - The Cell - Erykah Badu


FrenchCatalogues said...

We need a hockeyzine. Upstart it. Like people did with music, do it with Hockey, DIY.

Mortimer Peacock said...

Boatswain will be the picture editor.

FrenchCatalogues said...

I think that the arena should have on hand landseers

Mortimer Peacock said...

They really should. I nearly keeled over once because of a perfect Bernese Mountain Dog.

Anonymous said...

I see this as an opportunity for Thrashers blogs to take on more of a role in distributing and discussing news, don't you agree? I mean, I went to the Chronicle and Talons for quite a while before I even heard about Knobler, and even after reading his pieces I found the blogs information much more interesting and valuable.

Razor Catch Prey said...

Big whoop. That paper has been in the crapper ever since they chose not to endorse my campaign for the state legislature.

aaron said...

Butter scones & lemon curd, baby.

Oh, and Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea - twice the kick of that sodding Earl Grey.

Mortimer Peacock said...

I'm a big Earl Grey fan myself, but Twinings is awfully good.

Outsider/Chronicle Tea Party?

I think so. It must happen.

aaron said...


Monocles and cravats optional.

The Falconer said...

The decline of fall of the AJC is inevitable as the Roman Empire. As someone who grew up on newspapers that's sad. As someone who thinks the AJC is a poor newspaper I'm not overly upset about it.

What concerns me most is getting the little facts. Who is hurt, what are the lines, what did coach say at practice about last night's game. That's valuable stuff for a blogger like me who can't be there all the time.

Mortimer Peacock said...


Exactly. And (though I might be wrong) it seems that the new "beat writer" isn't going to have enough time or resources to report on those little details. And, as all good hockey fans know, those little details are the most important things.

Perhaps they'll give you a press pass.