Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tony Benjamin Discusses The Decline Of The Amsterdam Recorder.

Tony Benjamin, former editor of The Amsterdam Recorder, posted the following comment on an earlier post about the Recorder. I thought it was too important to be buried in the archives of Upstream, so I am making it my post for today.

Hello Dan,

I, of course, found this discussion fascinating. Thank you for having the courage and brights to provide the forum.
The Recorder didn't become what it became by chance. It was by choice, and I think the wrong one.
A small-minded, simplistic choice.In many ways, the choice the Recorder brain-trust made parallels the ills of newspapers across the nation.
The owners hired a publisher with no understanding of news, or the important role of newspapers in a community. Everything became bottom line. Everything.
That may work in a pickle factory, but newspapers are different.
Newspapers have a special obligation. It was the Recorder plan in 1996 to sacrifice that obligation in order to prop up the bottom line. It may work from a business standpoint, but totally fails the journalistic responsibility. Not to mention intgrity.
To hell with readers, as long as the owners are happy. You keep your job. How you look yourself in the mirror is another question. (for a case study in how this works -- or doesn't -- review the sad plight of Knight-Ridder Newspapers).
Anyone can own a newspaper. Not everyone can run a good one.
During my final year there, the marching orders were cut, cut, cut.
Reporters, editors, clerks -- investigative work, in-depth stories that explain, opinion, coverage area. Cut it all. And try to fake it.
Another marching order: Don't rile the so-called powerful. What a hoot. Powerful, how? Ad dollars? Chummy talk at cocktail parties? The Recorder lost its compass.
And they wonder why circulation falls.
Readers -- the backbone of a newspaper's success -- are not fools or fooled.
I'm very sorry those I thought could carry on, couldn't. I thought I knew them. I didn't. They're scared to death, and it goes to the paycheck. They hover in the velvet coffin. Dead. But sort of comfortable. What a way to go. There are worse things in the world than being fired. Especially from a place gone off the tracks.

Tony Benjamin

PS: I can't believe my writing got on your nerves. Congratulations to your son on his Sunday story (Death in the Adirondacks)in the Gazette. Be proud. It was a winner.

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