Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.

 

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Two of the oldest and best newspapers in America sold this week for a fraction of their recent value. Jeffrey Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, bought The Washington Post for $250 million the day after Red Sox owner John Henry bought The Boston Globe for $70 million. In 1993 The New York Times paid $1.1 billion for The Globe. That’s quite a drop. It’s also a trend, as scores of once-venerable papers have gone bankrupt, shut down or sold for a pittance. So the question is: where we will get our news? For even as they close far-flung bureaus and slash budgets, newspapers remain our primary source of independent reporting. The idea of non-partisan news reporting is relatively recent. Nineteenth-century papers were blatantly one-sided, usually little more than mouthpieces for political parties. Then two critical firewalls developed: one between editorial content and advertising; the other between news and opinion. The pressures against those walls were relentless – advertisers wanted only good coverage, politicians only editorial support – and they have collapsed in recent times, as publishers seek to appease advertisers, politicians and, yes, readers, by putting platitudes above professionalism. Now we have thousands of outlets where readers get only what they want, and ever fewer where trained journalists are trying to give us what we need. Whatever you may think of the opposing editorial positions of the Times and the Wall Street Journal, both news staffs are committed to piercing the political and corporate veils of bluster and secrecy in search of the true story. Without them, who will watch our “custodians?” Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

McDynamo

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