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By: Mark Glennon*

 

Michael Ferro is the Chairman and largest shareholder of Tribune Publishing, owner of the Chicago Tribune. This week, he said:

 

I now understand how important it is to have real journalism in the world and we’re starting here with our properties around the country. Bloggers can’t be the ones deciding public opinion, deciding presidential races.

 

As for the first part of his comment, let’s just say it’s good he “now” understands the importance, whatever that indicates.

 

But as for the rest, there’s evidently much he doesn’t understand:

 

•  Journalists aren’t the anointed. They have no more standing than you or me to “decide public opinion.” The bulk of conventional journalism should just be reporting facts. Good editorials add value with informed opinion, but those opinions should be contested and decide nothing.

 

•  Some blogs drive huge amounts of traffic to traditional media like the Tribune, especially those that keep thumbnails short to respect ownership of the stories they link to (as we do). The Washington post gets 15% of its traffic from The Drudge Report, of all places. Some of the best are simple curations of links, like Real Clear. Regular media struggling for readership should wise up about who sends them traffic — and why.

 

•  Bloggers and nontraditional journalists are filling the void opened as traditional journalism shrinks because of the difficulty of finding a workable revenue model. In recent months alone, two of Chicago’s biggest stories weren’t found by media regulars — the Laquan McDonald video and contract rigging by Barbara Byrd-Bennett at CPS. The first was broken by an independent journalist and the second by an at-home mom writing for a blog.

 

•  In Illinois, state and local fiscal crises are the paramount issues of our time, and conventional media coverage of them stinks, as we’ve been documenting here. It’s handled by political reporters who don’t understand finance, pensions and the rest. The only bright spots are the Tribune’s editorials (but not its reporting) and the Sun-Times’ reporting on Chicago (but not its editorials). The only regular sources of detailed, quality financial research are nontraditional media — chiefly, Illinois Policy and Truth in Accounting.

 

•  Bloggers police the media. Somebody needs to, especially in Illinois, where chummy reporters rarely go after one another.

 

Blogging has democratized and accelerated the flow of information and analysis. Anybody can blog — yes, anybody, as our critics here would probably quip. So be it. They have other favorite sources and that’s as it should be — unconstrained by the pre-internet oligopoly of establishment pooh-bas. A competitive marketplace of ideas now thrives thanks to the web and blogs, the value of which surpasses even Gutenberg’s press.

 

We’re not going back to the old ways. Having a tech background, Ferro, especially, should know that already.

 

*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.

 

 

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Steve-Oh

Ferro’s comment is indecipherably clueless. The stories that could’ve been “real journalism” were handed to the “reporters” and editors on a silver platter, with the obviously egregious # of govt ‘ees, their Rolls-Royce pay and pension packages…….the associated egregious taxes, then the budgets that never worked………my gosh, how easy would it’ve been to get some journos onto those stories over the last umpteen years? Not to mention the jobs-killing and family-killing effects of excess govt and warped incentives ? My guess is that Ferro still doesn’t get it.

I think there is a role that newspapers could play. They need to cover local stories from an unbiased point of view. Dig dig dig and report the facts. Hard for bloggers to do that-although they can. The fourth estate is enshrined Constitutionally. While bloggers can use their free speech, sometimes what they do is opinion and not fact. Too often, I see opinion in headline writing and in the ways reporters report the news.

Hiring a forensic accountant, using good reporters, and the FIA, the news media could do their patrons a great service by informing them accurately.

O. B. Server
The voting booth is one of the few places a person can express his/her views candidly without being subject to criticism, ostracism, retaliation etc. by the cadres of the politically correct — both of the left and the right. This election season has brought Trump into the fray and on to the ballots — in my view, because he is not threatened by his opponents’ name-calling. It will be interesting to see whether the Nov. election has a large turnout by voters whom Nixon called the Silent Majority. I’m not a Trump supporter, but he seems to have found the pulse of that segment of the public… Read more »
Steve-Oh

OB: Excellent comments, but my disagreement would be your referral to WSJ as ‘right wing’. They are “establishment”. I’ve had it delivered to my house for a year now, and been very disappointed. I wanted to see some fiscal conservatism and rallying around the need to protect our borders and cool it with the maniacal immigration both legal and illegal. WSJ seems in favor of open borders, and they make many mistakes that typical Libs make w/r/t federal budgeting, social security, etc.

bob oriole park
Bloggers present the other side of the story that the traditional media, with it’s unapologetic liberal bias fail to report. In addition Wirepoints, TIA, Illinois Policy, Mish et al have real numbers to back up everything they say. Most of the reporters don’t take time to dig deep, or question the info they are given. I run a machine in a manufacturing environment and I come home and read CAFR’s and bond reports. The reporters come home and read one page press releases and never question the numbers. A good journalist never takes anything at face value, they do independent verification. As Mark says, 2 of the… Read more »
Peter A. Quilici

I suspect that Mr. Ferro also dislikes elections being decided by voters.