Sunday, December 05, 2021

"I hate shallowness" -- Whither our Incredible Shrinking St. Augustine Record? (By Ed Slavin, December 5, 2021)

"I hate shallowness." -- the late Hal Holbrook, as Washington Post confidential source Mark Felt, FBI Associate Director, in the movie, "All the President's Men." 

"I hate shallowness" -- Whither our Incredible Shrinking St. Augustine Record

Does everything that GANNETT touches turn to spit?

In the movie, All The President's Men, an FBI source played by Hal Holbrook meets young Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward in a parking garage at 3 AM, setting him right on political crimes, stating with exasperation, "I hate shallowness."

Me too.   

Mr. Woodward is celebrating his 50th anniversary with The Washington Post December 7th, and few sentient critters would accuse him of shallowness today,

Other newspapers are in a slough of mediocrity, mendacity.  It is "the race to the bottom," as Justice Louis Brandeis would have called it

As a longtime, 22 year resident of St. Augustine and St. Augustine Record reader, and as a former local newspaper editor in East Tennessee, I hate the shallowness of the St. Augustine Record.  

I am appalled at the Record's historic willingness to coverup for local crooks and schnooks, including segregationists and their succcessors. 

I am disgusted by what three (3) reckless feckless corporations have done to our on once-local newspaper since I moved here in 1999. 

MORRIS COMMUNICATIONS was run by right-wing profligate Georgia good-ole-boys, who used corporate jets to fly to Monaco, where they owned the only English newspaper.  

MORRIS sued and lost a meritless federal court antitrust lawsuit over "real-time golf scores" (20 minutes or less after a round) against the PGA Tour, Inc, in an effort to obtain "real time golf scores" for free.  

While their Times-Union newspaper would sue over records requests, MORRIS never did,  The St. Augustine Record was undercapitalized, but at least it covered local issues.   MORRIS sought to inform Record readers, with reporters once writing detailed stories on campaign finance, and reporting on Sunshine violations.  

MORRIS filed for bankruptcy and were relieved of $300,000,000 in debt, while a federal court refused to hear readers' pleas the investigative reporting be emphasized, or the newspaper would go broke without readers.  

Then the Record got dumbed down,  MORRIS hired maladroit Kathy Nelson as "Director of Audience/Editor" -- she insipidly put down The New York Times investigative efforts on the Michelle O'Connel homicide. 

She was fired.  

Under MORRIS, there was a heavy hand on cartoonists, firing Ed Hall for a cartoon critical of Florida school suerintndents cutting art, music and athletics.  

On the other hand, letter-writers and guest columnists were encouraged and cultivated.  Now they're absent, left out by the money-hungry Wall Street hedge fund that is now calling the shots for the Record and hundreds of other once-local newspapers.. 

GATEHOUSE bought the Record and other properties from MORRIS, firing experienced editors and writers.  

The Sunday Opinion page was cut from two pages to one.  

Then GATEHOUSE and GANNETT united, one mediocre mess, with hundreds of newspapers, going massively into debt. 

Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll was once on GANNETT's board, but quit. Wonder why?

GANNETT mismanagement has stripped the paper of news and opinion.   Founded by conservative Dull Republican Frank Gannett, who died the year I was born, in 1957, GANNETT was anti-Roosevelt, anti-labor and anti-New Deal.  

Frank Gannett was a vile hater, a vicious labor baiter, the man who said the New Deal was "Fascism, Nazism of Communism  It all amounts to the same thing."  

Much that is mediocre about the newspaper business has flowed from this right-wing, anti-union businessman's vision -- Chain Gang Journalism, as we called it on July 4, 1981, in the Prospectus of The Appalachian Observer, inter alia promising our readers what we would uncover (and did, for the next 26 months, until I left for law school at Memphis State).

GANNETT's St. Augustine Record is especially thin this morning. 

This morning's pitiful paper is the first in a week with an opinion page, featuring no names on the masthead, an absentee AWOL editor from Daytona, whose day job is editing the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Today the only editorial is a cut-and-paste Daytona Beach News Journal editorial on a Daytona Beach development project.  

As fascinating as we might find development projects in Daytona Beach, GANNETT has let us down, playing cookie-cutter cost-cutting cut and paste from other papers with its page makeup and layout, and playing fast and loose with its readers, raising prices for less news.

The Record has long been guilty of biased coverage, or no coverage of dodgy devious developer projects in St. Johns County, as when DAVID BARTON CORNEAL was allowed to buy, close and demolish one of the buildings in the Florida government-funded Dow Museum of Historic Homes, turning it into a hotel for the wealthy, now called "The Collector."
See my August 2015 column, "Perfectly Vapid Editorial in This Morning's Record on Dodgy Developer DAVID BARTON CORNEAL's Demand to Turn Dow Museum of Historic Homes into $500/Night Hotel in St. Augustine's Most Protected, Most Historic Neighborhood (Old City South, HP-1)"

My late journalistic mentor Nat Caldwell with the Nashville Tennessean ruefully predicted that GANNETT would be the end of the Tennessean as we knew and loved it.  Nat was a courageous Pulitzer Prize winner who exposed antitrust violations by large coal companies and the United Mine Workers of America. Nat helped guide Tennessean Publisher John Seigenthaler, Tennessean cub reporters like Albert Gore, Jr. and other younger journalists, including me, a freelancer investigating TVA and coal monopolies.   

I grew up reading a GANNETT newspaper, the Camden Courier-Post, one of the first 20 newspapers in the GANNETT chain, acquired in 1959.  Growing up, our family read The New York Times, Philadelphia Bulletin, Philadelphia Inquirer, Gloucester County Times and Courier-Post  In the 1960s and 1970s, we saw first-hand GANNETT's inept coverage, if there was any coverage at all, of local issues.   My mom called GANNETT's Courier-Post a "dumb paper." She was right. 

Years later, GANNETT started USA Today, a/k/a "McPaper," whose Chain Gang Journalism managers wanted shallow 15 inch stories on national issues.  USA Today perfected the pretty papers without substance that typify the genre of GANNETT;s shrieking shallowness.  Its newspaper vending machines were designed to look like television sets.  Believe It or Not!

GANNETT was founded by Dull Republican extremist Frank Gannett, an anti-New Deal, anti-labor, corporate propagandist.  

Seemingly, stupidity and cupidity are in GANNETT's corporate DNA.

GANNETT's successive mergers and and acquisitions have left the Wall Street Oligarchy of Cosmic Blunderers in charge of much of the news business in America.  

This is a sham and a shame.

Once-great newspapers like the Tennessean, and once-local newspapers like the Record have been turned into boring fungible mucked up messes. 

The amount of news, even on their websites, has been greatly reduced. 

Gary Hart said, "You won't get the government off your backs unless you get your hands out of its pockets."

The Senate is considering House-passed legislation in the reconciliation bill, which would help encourage local journalism with tax credits for newspaper advertisers and subscribers, and newspapers, too,

The bill is called the "Local Journalism Sustainability Act."

One provision would give newspapers a refundable tax credit of $25,000 for every local journalist they employ.  The credit would not apply to large newspapers like The New York Times, but somehow would apply to debt-ridden GANNETT and its mediocre properties. .

Does oligopolistic GANNETT -- owner of 250 daily newspapers and 300 weekly newspapers -- expect federal income tax credits for "local journalism," as is currently pending before Congress?  

If so, you're going to have to show me: Cui bono?  (Who benefits?). 

Or as Gary Hart would ask his staff to ask, "Is the legislation based on need, or greed?"

Should the legislation require divestiture of oligopolistic GANNETT newspaper properties like the two dozen properties in Florida, in order to restore competition, coverage and competence? GANNETT should be sued for antitrust violations?  

You tell me.

The Berkshire Eagle is now a locally-owned newspaper again, purchased by a group of local investors. When locals control their newspapers, local issues get covered.  It's that simple.  

The Tampa Bay Times is now run by a non-profit.  That's a neat idea.

When our Appalachian Observer investigated and publicized massive Oak Ridge nuclear weapons plant pollution, it was because the publisher and owner, County Commissioner Ernest F. Phillips, was a local whose family had been in East Tennessee for some seven generations.   We cared about our county.

Chain Gang Journalism newspapers were not going to cover the issue.  

Only after the AO got the mercury pollution declassified, and only after my environmental and nuclear whistleblower clients organized, did GANNETT's Tennessean newspaper investigate the ripple of sickness and death flowing from those "dark Satanic mills," as poet William Blake would have called them. On that occasion, GANNETT earned a Pulitzer, but never got it, screwed, blued and tattoed by the Columbia University School of Journalism Pulitzer Prize Committee (after the Oak Ridge Oligarchy of Atomic Blunderers bragged of exercising their influence and affluence, through Lockheed Martin and other criminaloid corporate polluters and retaliators).

We here in St. Augustine demand a local newspaper that will cover local issues without fear or favor. If GANNETT won't do it, please sell the Record to locals who love our town.

We once had a local newspaper here.  May we have it back, please?

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln -- dealing with maladroit Civil War General George McClellan, a/k/a "Little Napoleon" -- once said, "If General McClellan does not want to use the Army, I would like to borrow it for a time."

Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,

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