Sunday, July 6, 2008

Implosion hits Orlando Sentinel

The Orlando Sentinel is crumbling. The graphic changes you see in the daily paper aren't the only changes taking place. Staff is being laid off or has defected to other ventures and venues, newspapers and otherwise. Why is this important? Because the Orlando Sentinel is the only daily newspaper in the Orlando metropolitan area. For people truly interested in local news -- in staying informed -- there is no other source.

As the newspaper decline hits Central Florida we see the folly of one-newspaper-towns such as Orlando. We see the folly, too, in the craziness of corporate ownership, with its unyielding focus on shareholder returns and its insistence on bland. Private ownership such as the Sentinel has now in the name of Sam Zell is not much better if you're saddled with $12 billion in debt and are laying off the very staff that is supposed to "own" the employee-owned paper.

People get laid off from jobs all the time. The difference here is that fewer reporters remain to gather the news, significantly diminishing the accountability of government and other institutions. Even when the Sentinel was better staff there was county and city news that went unreported, underreported or reported late by the paper. Imagine the hijinks that will go undiscovered and unreported in the future.

The Orlando Sentinel was never a perfect paper. In fact, it's always been stodgy and boring, a little too conservative, slow paced and even dimwitted for its own good. But it once was more ambitious than it is now. Anybody remember the Tim Franklin days? The Orlando Sentinel was going to be the "best regional paper." Ha!

The Orlando Sentinel is retrenching at a time when local news is supposed to be all important. But if bureaus close, where's the local in that? If staff is reduced, who's left to report local news? If news is dumbed down to its graphic elements, where's the beef? If pages are cut back, how are you going to fit in all the local news that the reduced staff is going to report from non bureaus? Folks, this is a farce.

The Orlando Sentinel is melting, and we need to keep watch over what is going on inside the nondescript building on Orange Avenue. After all, the Orlando Sentinel surely isn't going to report on it. Please send in your tips and ideas, and keep this blog alive.

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