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  El Cerrito   Schools   Regional   History   Lifestyle   [Opinion]   Election  

OPINION: Times changing but not for the better (Revised July 3 to add links to related articles)

By Betty King Buginas

I almost gagged when I read John Armstrong’s July 1 Perspective piece in the West Cpunty Times that begins: “This newspaper is embarking on an unprecedented effort to get closer to the communities we serve.”

By what stretch of the imagination is the Times getting closer to the community? What it is doing is not unprecedented. It is happening all across the country as newspapers are bought up by corporations such as Times-owner Knight-Ridder that sell news as they do any other commodity, by watching the bottom line.

Armstrong notes, “Our research shows time and again that readers are most interested in news of their own community, the more local the better. There is no news that is more costly. “

Let me summarize: Readers want local news, but it costs too much. So the Times is giving us something else, something cheaper.

Later in the column, Armstrong attacks Richmond Councilman Tom Butt for posting an item on his website about changes at the West County Times. (Actually Armstrong didn't get this quite right; Butt says it was distributed by e-mail.)

Let’s look at what Tom did. He heard the Times is downsizing and at the same time adding a weekly West County supplement. The information the Times printed raised more questions than it answered – How will content of the daily newspaper be affected? If the Times is downsizing, who will write the articles for the supplement?

Tom shared what he’d heard and clearly labeled it as rumor. This is what columns – not puff pieces like Armstrong’s “After Deadline” of course – sometimes do when all the facts aren't available, to get a topic out in the open and stir up discussion.

What Tom did is higher quality journalism by a far cry than the information the Times has given us about its own operation.

The Internet is not the bad guy here. It is our best hope that the flow of information will not be controlled by a few. If there is a shred of journalist in Armstrong he will appreciate the true freedom of speech it offers. And if there is a businessman in him that hopes to survive, he’ll learn as much as possible about how to use it.

Run dates: 2001-07-02 - 2001-07-23

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