Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom ... of the press ... to destroy itself

The Mercury News celebrated Freedom Day by firing 31 reporters Monday, seemingly weakening our democracy once again. Together with the 15 people who voluntarily took severance packages in the last months, the Merc lost about 20 percent of an editorial staff still recovering from many rounds of cuts.

This is a shame. Many of those reporters -- S.L. Wykes, Kate Folmar and Dylan Hernandez come to mind -- are particulary good at their jobs. But the simple fact is that news is continuing to get cheaper. Consequently, the news-gathering function is worth less and less. Before anyone (Joc) replies that this is all the fault of greedy owners, please read the Mountain View Voice story about the city's lawsuit with Shoreline Amphitheater auditing firm Daoro, Zydel & Holland and ask yourself how much time it take for you to get this information yourself?
Mountain View city attorney Michael Martello "announced" the trial date.
What appears to have happened is that the judge announced the trial date, and at some point Martello told the Palo Alto Daily News (which not located in Mountain View, nor Palo Alto, for that matter), which wrote a story and thereby alerted the Voice. While I don't have a reason to think Martello's lying, I decided to confirm it with the court's Website. I timed myself. Took me two minutes.

Daoro attorney Farley Neuman "is a self-described specialist in accounting malpractice."
In fact, Neuman has written several articles on the subject, so we shouldn't be relying on his own descritpion of himself. Type his name into Google and follow the first link.

"He said he has filed a summary judgment [sic] that describes in good detail the complex accounting issues that go back over a decade."
First of all, he has filed a motion for summary judgment along with a brief in support of it, which isn't a huge error but does indicate either shoddy editing or a lack of effort to understand this (or any) case or both. More significantly, this sentence makes it clear that the reporter never even looked at the document, nor knows for sure that it exists, despite what appears to be an invitation to read it. (It doesn't appear to be on-line yet, but it's not difficult to ask the lawyer for a copy of it or go to the courthouse).

Let's not pretend like we couldn't get the same quality of information from someone getting paid half as much in Bangalore or, for that matter, somebody getting paid nothing at all and writing on their blog.

As a sidenote, the top story on the Voice's Web site right now is about 7-11 doing a promotion for the Simpsons movie.

4 comments:

Don said...

So, is there something about the name "Jon Wiener" that requires its bearer to make up phony criticisms about the media?

I refer to this:
http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlLA/newspapers/wiener_pals_recall_the_good_old_days_at_the_la_weeklyits_all_jill_stewarts_fault_62080.asp

And I refer to this:
Daoro attorney Farley Neuman "is a self-described specialist in accounting malpractice."
In fact, Neuman has written several articles on the subject, so we shouldn't be relying on his own descritpion of himself. Type his name into Google and follow the first link.

What would you suggest, that we read all those articles and decide for ourselves whether he's really an accounting malpractice expert?

I know these blog entries seem like the jabber inside your mind, Jon, but remember: after you hit the "publish" button the rest of us can actually read them!

Miss L.I. said...

jon, your legalese is scaring me. not only have you gone over to the dark side, but you appear to enjoy being there. i'd argue the mention of "summary judgment" should be avoided in articles -- and blogs. most readers, let alone, "uniformed" reporters, don't know what the term means. isn't it enough to say the judge ruled?

Nemesis of Evil said...

Don,

I apologize for the tone. It was unecessarily obnoxious (though I suppose that's not suprising to either my friends nor my enemies).

I think you're wrong about two things, though. First of all, you haven't seen the readership numbers, but trust me when I say this is the jabber inside my mind. Also, I don't think that my criticism is phony, as you say. My main point is that when news gets cheaper, so do journalists. I love the Voice's new Web site, but I worry that the pressure to update it quickly and regulary has the ability to make the Voice look more like the Daily News -- a greater number of short and timely articles which happen to be much less informative.

At my college reunion last month, I apologized to the eic for quitting my post as features editor. He told me it was all right, because had come to the realization that he would have had to fire me eventually. I wonder if that's ever crossed your mind. Actually, don't answer that.

Lastly, thank you for posting "Jon Wiener" and helping me pursue my goal of passing the other "Jon Wiener" on the results page when people search Google for "Jon Wiener."

Nemesis of Evil said...

Miss L.I.,

Two questions:

1) Don't you think that just saying a judge ruled will confuse readers, many of whom might wonder why they never heard about the trial taking place? Doesn't the situation merits some explanation, even if you don't want to use the term summary judgment?

2) (I guess this is really 3). Lawyers put Judy Miller in prison while journalists gave her awards. Which one of us is on the dark side?