Marshall: We’re entering an era of ‘mcnews mcnuggets’

Islander columnist Becky Fox Marshall entered the journalism world in the era of Woodward and Bernstein. Now, some of the best reporting is coming from Comedy Central and most people only hunger for tasty little morsels of news rather than full meal deals.

Read Marshall’s column below…

Industries and professions come and go with the times. It is part of the march of time. The iceman no longer cometh, because we have freezers in our houses. Farriers are few, and exist mostly for girls who ride in horse shows, rather than serving as a critical cog in the wheel of commerce. It’s a painful transition. It’s even more painful when it’s an industry to which you’ve devoted most of your working life, and surreal to watch it peak and fizzle within your lifetime. It’s downright scary when the industry is a cornerstone of democracy.

I speak, of course, of the demise of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and likely, The Seattle Times. Seattle a no-traditional-newspaper town? How can that be? Last week, a list of 10 newspapers circulated in the surviving media as in their death throes – newspapers in the cities of Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Miami, Detroit, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Fort Worth and Cleveland. And while many in the media believed that community newspapers were not threatened, we on Bainbridge Island have seen drastic changes in our local newspapers.

I graduated from high school the same month that five men were arrested inside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office building in Washington, D.C. , and the Washington Post began its coverage that was to make Woodward and Bernstein household names, and my generation’s heroes. I was between my sophomore and junior years in journalism school, working in Pioneer Square, when President Nixon announced to the nation he was resigning. The streets filled with people, and the bars sent pitchers of beer out for the celebration. It was a good time to be a journalist.

I worked for community and daily newspapers for more than 25 years, where my colleagues took their responsibility to the truth seriously. It was many years of city councils and school boards, cops and courts, and a focus on objectivity and digging.

But it really is a different world we live in now. As communication technology has advanced, it has made it fairly obvious that print newspapers are old school. It takes some time to research, write, print and deliver it in a newspaper. Globalization, polarization – so many “izations” are working against newspapers.

My friends tell me it will all turn out OK – that newspapers will remake themselves with a new model for a new world. It won’t be easy or pretty, but many have faith it will happen. I hope so. Not only for democracy’s sake, but for those of us who like the feel of the paper in our hands and the time we can spend understanding issues from different perspectives. We are loath to depend on sources of news with a definite viewpoint — or those that simply repeat what they’re told without digging a little deeper, or taking the time to examine something from all of its sides. Everybody’s a journalist these days. And few people want more than a mcnugget of mcnews – a few lines should sum it up. Super.

It’s one very wacky world when our comedians do a better job of journalism than the few remaining reporters left in the world. Case in point –The Daily Show – on the comedy channel! Host Jon Stewart took on Mad Money host Jim Cramer in an amazing display of reporting. Respectful but relentless, and articulate. Maybe we need more comedians to get to the truth.

Case in point – as I sit writing this, Northwest Cable News is on in the background. I’ve heard the loop of today’s headlines about three times, and I finally had to turn it off. One of the stories was about someone who was injured in a – and this is a direct quote: “a bar fight that got out of control.”
Isn’t a bar fight, by definition, something that is already out of control? Or are we now OK with bar fights, as long as they’re controlled? Who is writing this stuff?

It really is a wacky world.

9 thoughts on “Marshall: We’re entering an era of ‘mcnews mcnuggets’

  1. No tears shed on my part about the PI sinking. No matter what history they claim as a newspaper, in the recent past the paper has become a jaundiced rag howling about business and average citizens doing normal pursuits. The PI dug their own hole and it is time for them to jump in.

    Adios PI!

  2. I found it surreal to visit Rochester’s Eastman House and realize film stock is history. I haven’t taken a morning paper in years, but sad to see it go with the dinosaurs.

  3. Elliot,Yes,I,m afraid that’s true.Not many people know how much Jimmy secretly loved Clark. And Superman. But then again, he seems to be upset about a lot of things these days.

  4. I didn’t know Jimmy’s love for Clark was supposed to be a secret. After all, he brought Clark flowers after that article you and Clark co-wrote on the Lynwood pederasty case.

  5. Great Ceasar’s ghost! as my mentor Perry White used to say.More evidence of Clark’s duplicitous nature! He told me those flowers were from him,to me.Perry,being somewhat of an uber-thinking man ahead of his time, had a strict ‘Don’t ask,Don’t tell’ policy in force at the Planet back in the day,as in ‘don’t ask Jimmy anything, and for God’s sake, don’t tell Jimmy anything,especially about your relationship with Kent’. Clark won me over with those flowers and now I don’t know what to think about him. Or Jimmy.

  6. Lois,

    As you can probably tell by the “Shining City Media” (whatever that is) tag, Jimmy no longer works for The Planet. His fate there was sealed when he was accused of perjury a couple of years ago. I was told that Mr. White fired Jimmy shortly after that and suggested he go work for Fox News. I guess he didn’t catch on there, either.

    I imagine it’s tough to find work for a boy reporter with no credibility.

  7. My Dear Elliot,

    Yes, it’s a sad story when no one wants you.Maybe someday someone will write it. Even though Perry wore nicely polished Wing-Tips,and they were RightWing-Tips,he never liked Jimmy Olsen or his brand of politics.In fact, Clark and I saw him do a little GWB soft-shoe in those shining shoes on the day he fired Jimmy. He seemed to walk with a lighter step from that day on.
    I heard a rumor from a friend of mine who used to work for one of the Seattle papers,the PI,I think,or was it the Times?,that Jimmy is planning a run for the Mayor’s job on Bainbridge. That’s not McNews McNuggets,that’s just McNuts.
    Ciao fro Metropolis,
    Lois Lane

Comments are closed.