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Time for Enquirer to Step Up

By Ben L. Kaufman · January 2nd, 2008 · On Second Thought

Cincinnati�s Second Newspaper resurrects our media criticism column today as a weekly feature with a new name, "On Second Thought." News Editor Greg Flannery and I will alternate authorship.

The big story is the loss of Cincinnati�s Post. It was a strong, lively paper for decades, however impoverished by 30-year death throes. Many journalists spent productive careers there. Others left for offers they couldn�t refuse from The Enquirer, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun, etc.

In pre-Internet days, a competitor�s closing meant triumphant monopolies benefited from new advertising and circulation, usually without serious efforts at becoming better papers. Why bother?

Today competition is everywhere. If The Post's demise enriches The Enquirer, Publisher Margaret Buchanan should confound conventional wisdom and reinvest in her news operation. The Enquirer cannot minimize its now-unique obligation to provide what we need to make important communal decisions. No other newsroom can do it.

Space-filling �reader content,� �community conversation� and �citizen journalists� are no substitutes for such stories as Michael Clark�s smart coverage of NAACP President Gary Hines� inability to see a conflict of interest between his desire to sell diversity training to Lakota schools and challenging a student play as symbolic of racism there.

Similarly, we need more stories like Greg Korte�s nuanced data-based exploration of the impacts of local eminent domain and home foreclosures.

Meanwhile, The Enquirer is outsourcing some customer service jobs to Tulsa.

Curmudgeon notes: � The Post's final edition was Dec. 31. Grieving will evolve into a dull ache, sharpened anew each anniversary. I know. I closed a daily paper on New Year�s Eve 43 years ago.

� Chic Poppe, the region�s foremost news videographer, retired Dec. 31 from WCPO (Channel 9). For decades he set the standard for capturing breaking news, inspiring some jealousy and lots of admiration among colleagues and competitors. As a recent profile in The Post made clear, Chic�s success was a combination of smart, hard work and a gift for schmoozing sources whose helpful responses reflected Chic�s respect and warmth for them.

� Post contributor Joe Wessels joins CityBeat as a columnist. Bob Driehaus, a former Post reporter and now a New York Times stringer, provides full, savvy coverage of new doubts about Ohio voting machines. Local papers don�t do nearly so well.

� Last month�s Enquirer obit shortchanged photographer and homeless advocate Jimmy Heath. It omitted his role as editor of Streetvibes, the monthly newspaper sold by the homeless. The Post got it right.

� Major news media covering the latest Hamilton County incarceration study ignored CityBeat's pre-election discoveries by Kevin Osborne: Most inmates are awaiting trial, and people convicted spend less time behind bars than those who are acquitted.

� I learn nothing from candidates� anodyne ads. Critical ads tell me more. If attack ads are accurate, they�re the best information I get. If they aren�t, they tell me a lot about the accuser.

� Major Turkish raids into Iraqi Kurdistan are being reported as new. Wrong. Months ago a London Daily Telegraph reporter visited longstanding and heavily armed Turkish fire bases deep inside Iraq. His stories still are ignored by American media. Bush says �squat,� they squat; Bush says �jump,� they jump.

� The Washington Post illustrates why rumors should remain on men�s room walls. The headline is �Foes Use Obama's Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him.� Wingnuts say he is a dissembling Muslim a la The Manchurian Candidate. Deborah Howell, the Post�s ombudsman, says the rumors are old and �convincing evidence of their falsity wasn�t included in the story.�

CONTACT BEN KAUFMAN: letters@citybeat.com



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