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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: journalism

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April 2, 2014 at 6:03 AM

5 things to know about local TV news consolidation — and what you can do about it

In Wednesday’s edition of The Seattle Times, the editorial board commended the Federal Communications Commission’s decision this week to crack down on media consolidation by ending the practice of joint sales agreements (JSAs). A majority of commissioners agreed that waivers should be granted only in cases where station leaders can prove that partnerships truly serve the public interest through quality and diverse programming on public airwaves, and not just to to increase profits for private companies.

L to R: Commissioner Ajit Pai, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Chairman Tom Wheeler, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. Commissioners Group Photo, November 2013

Members of the Federal Communications Commission in a November 2013 photo. Left to right: Commissioner Ajit Pai, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Chairman Tom Wheeler, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. (Photo provided by the FCC)

Are you one of the millions of Americans still getting your information from your local television news? Here are five things you should know:

1. Media consolidation is real.

Fewer owners nationwide control what viewers see and hear. Imagine what that means for communities and American democracy, which relies on many perspectives to maintain a self-governing, informed electorate. Look at the interactive graphic featured in a Oct. 29, 2013 Opinion Northwest blog post.

In Seattle, the commercial stations are all owned by out-of-state conglomerates. Last year, Sinclair Broadcast Group bought KOMO-TV and Gannett purchased KING-TV. KIRO-TV is owned by Cox Media Group. KCPQ-TV’s parent company is Tribune. They are staffed by local (and beloved) news producers and reporters, but their financial interests are in the hands of owners who do not have close ties to the community.

That’s not to say the quality of news has gone down the drain, but the loss of local ownership is something to keep in mind next time you notice there’s a dearth of quality, local content and more packages stories from other markets.

2. Broadcasters have used JSAs to skirt federal rules and control more than one station in various markets.

Last October, The Wall Street Journal’s Keach Hagey wrote a comprehensive report about the use of “sidecar” agreements, in which broadcasters such as Sinclair skirt federal limits and operate more than one station in some markets by outsourcing management duties. As noted in Wednesday’s Seattle Times editorial, the FCC should force broadcasters to disclose all shared-service agreements.

3. The consolidation is sweeping the country.

The graphic below, by the media watchdog group Free Press, shows where JSAs and other forms of shared-service agreements are in place around the country. Free Press calls these partnerships “covert consolidation.” (Read more about the ways broadcasters have violated federal rules on Free Press’ blog.)

(Source: Free Press)

(Map: Free Press)

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0 Comments | Topics: free press, journalism, media consolidation

March 18, 2014 at 12:22 PM

Mourning the loss of mentor, KOMO photojournalist Bill Strothman

Corrected version

My heart breaks for the people at KOMO-TV. They lost two colleagues Tuesday morning in a helicopter accident.

Photojournalist Bill Strothman (Photo provided by KOMO-TV)

Photojournalist Bill Strothman (Photo provided by KOMO-TV)

My heart breaks for Seattle. We lost a photojournalist who believed with all his heart that local television news should be a force for good.

And my heart breaks for aspiring reporters who will never get a chance to walk in the footsteps of Bill Strothman.

I was fortunate to work with Bill during two summer internships with KOMO-TV. Except for a few emails and casual exchanges through Facebook over the years, we had not seen each other in some time. But you never really forget your mentors. And Bill was a good one. 

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0 Comments | Topics: bill strothman, journalism, komo

September 13, 2013 at 4:03 PM

Julie Chen, Harvard’s Riptide report: Why bother leaning in?

Corrected version It’s been a week of surreal debate about women and journalism. Julie Chen, co-host of CBS show “The Talk,” revealed that she had undergone plastic surgery on her eyes after a former news director and an agent told her that she looked too Chinese. Earlier, Harvard released a landmark study about why the news industry has…

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0 Comments | Topics: journalism, women

August 5, 2013 at 3:34 PM

Amazon.com owner Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Jeff Bezos introducing Amazon's Kindle Fire in 2011 (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Jeff Bezos introducing Amazon’s Kindle Fire in 2011
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

As a child growing up just outside of Washington, D.C., reading the Washington Post was a time-honored daily tradition. As a young journalist, I aspired to work at the venerable newspaper and did for four years. As a consumer of news,  I’m cautiously optimistic about the newspaper’s sale to Jeff Bezos, owner of e-commerce giant, Amazon.

The paper, owned for generations by the Graham-family, continues family-ownership with the Bezos family. For similar reasons, I’m also cheering the New York Times sale of The Boston Globe to the owner of the Boston Red Sox. That sale returned a good, but struggling paper to local ownership. Under ownership of someone who lives and breathes all things Boston, I’m betting the Globe begins a turnaround of decades of circulation and financial decline.

Back to the Washington Post. Bezos is paying $250 million for the paper, a surprisingly low price for one of the world’s most respected institutions. Hopefully, he’s paying sales tax on this purchase. My tongue is only slightly planted in my cheek. Bezos and Amazon have aggressively sought to avoid collecting sales tax on online purchases. New Jersey in June became just the 10th  state where Amazon collects sales tax.

Among the many questions raised by the sale, is whether Bezos, who has zero experience in journalism, has at least an appreciation for its public service value. How much he values the fourth estate will be one of the things that will guide how much he invests in the expensive business of newsgathering. The Washington Post is a heavyweight in journalism. The paper was enshrined in American political history for breaking the Watergate scandal that brought down a president, and for the Pentagon Papers. But more recently, it has led on disclosures about the National Security Administration’s surveillance program and is still one of the best in terms of local and regional reporting. It is in the public’s interest that the Post continue to excel in public journalism. On Monday, Bezos sent a statement to Post employees that sought to allay any such fears.

 “The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners. We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistakes.”

But Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon—that will be released by Little, Brown in October, sets the stage differently.

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0 Comments | Topics: Amazon, e-commerce, economy

June 21, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Slideshow: Oregonian cuts daily delivery, and a love note to newspapers

I am devastated for print readers of The Oregonian. The Portland-based paper is downsizing home delivery to four days a week and laying off employees as it focuses on transitioning to digital media.

There’s no doubt viewer habits are changing and the newspaper industry’s traditional business model has been disrupted by the rise of the Internet. Everyone is trying to survive, including The Seattle Times.

Folded copies of The Seattle Times Sunday edition move swiftly down a conveyer belt at the North Creek facility to be packaged with advertisements. (INSTAGRAM PHOTO BY THANH TAN / SEATTLE TIMES)

Folded copies of The Seattle Times Sunday edition move swiftly down a conveyer belt at the North Creek facility to be packaged with advertisements. (INSTAGRAM PHOTO BY THANH TAN / SEATTLE TIMES)

When my friend in Portland texted me the news about The Oregonian, I thought, “Which print daily is next?” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer stopped printing altogether in 2009. The New Orleans Times-Picayune shifted to three-days-a-week in 2012.

I hate to see the art and craft of printing newspapers go unappreciated.

Last weekend, I joined one of The Seattle Times’ “Saturday Night Live” tours, where employees are led on a seven-hour journey from the lobby of the Times building to the newsroom, the North Creek printing facility in Bothell and, finally, one of several warehouses in Lynnwood where an incredible diversity of newspaper carriers prepare their home deliveries.

I spend my time at headquarters in South Lake Union and previously worked for online and television organizations, so I didn’t truly understand the complex process it takes to get the print edition of The Seattle Times to our readers.

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0 Comments | Topics: instagram, journalism, the oregonian