Photo of the day

Go ahead, hate the gallery of photos from “National puppy day.”  I dare you.

Chilean police officers march with puppies, future police dogs, during a parade celebrating Chile’s 208th independence anniversary in Santiago on September 19, 2018. 

Claudio Reyes / AFP / Getty

The death of local news

Local newspapers are dying and that’s horrible for democracy.  Sad map in the N&O back in February:

The Wire’s David Simon on the problem (from a decade ago, but only more relevant now):

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the award-winning writer and producer launches a tirade against newspaper owners who, he says, showed “contempt for their product” and are now reaping the whirlwind. But he rejects the idea that newspapers should seek ways to embrace the new world of free information, arguing that they must urgently start charging money for content distributed online.

“Oh, to be a state or local official in America over the next 10 to 15 years, before somebody figures out the business model,” says Simon, a former crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun. “To gambol freely across the wastelands of an American city, as a local politician! It’s got to be one of the great dreams in the history of American corruption.” [emphases mine]

The only hope, Simon insists, is for major news outlets to find a way to collaboratively impose charges for reading online, and to demand fees from aggregators such as Google News, which profit from their journalism. “If you don’t have a product that you’re charging for, you don’t have a product,” he says. “If you think that free is going to produce something that’s as much of a cost centre as good journalism – because it costs money to do good journalism – you’re out of your mind.”

And Alexis Madrigal last week:

But newspaper reporters used to be the backbone of every local journalism ecosystem. Medium- and large-sized cities sometimes had hundreds of them, and their publications’ formats allowed for the day-to-day coverage and investigative explorations that make civic journalism valuable to communities.

In a previous world, perhaps one could imagine that a million bloggers would spring up to fill the void left by all the actual reporting jobs disappearing, but that clearly did not and is not going to happen. The explosion of national digital-only news outlets has come and gone. Many survive, but few do the kind of journalism that local papers did. It’s one thing to tweet from a city council meeting every once in a while, and a whole other thing to cover City Hall for a real newspaper.

There are bright, local, digital-only spots—say, the Voice of San Diego or Berkeleyside—but they are the exceptions, not the rule.

Add it all up and, according to a recent report, 1,300 communities have completely lost local news coverage.

In most places, the news still exists. The paper hits the doorstep. The radio breaks for updates. At 11 o’clock, someone starts talking on the TV about top stories.

But the loss of reporters and editors has hollowed out the coverage. There are fewer and less experienced reporters. Each paper covers a smaller chunk of the region, leading nearly half of Americans to say that their local news doesn’t actually cover their own local area. The editors don’t have a lifetime’s worth of knowledge of the places they’re working.  

Golden-era newspaper journalism had many problems. For example, publishers like the Knowland familywhich ran the Oakland Tribuneused their papers to help them maintain political power. Women and people of color were underrepresented in the journalistic ranks as well as in the pages. (There is a reason that black people developed an entirely separate set of  journalistic institutions.)

Even so, as the local journalistic institutions have fallen, they have not been replaced by something better, but rather nothing at all. And as they die off, many Americans don’t even know it.

This is just bad.  Pay for some good local news damnit!

Shocking development: Alabama mistreats it’s prisoners

Okay, not shocking.  But what’s sad is how utterly not-shocking this is, but that is nonetheless a largely accepted, ongoing status quo.  From the Post:

Alabama’s understaffed and overcrowded prisons have for years allowed killings, sex abuse and other violence to go largely unchecked , according to a scathing set of findings issued Wednesday by Justice Department investigators.

The investigators found reasonable cause to suspect the state “routinely violates the constitutional rights of prisoners housed in Alabama’s prisons by failing to protect them from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, and by failing to provide safe conditions,” Justice Department officials wrote in a letter to Gov. Kay Ivey.

Federal authorities called the violations “severe, systemic, and exacerbated by serious deficiencies in staffing and supervision,” as well as an inability to control the flow of drugs and weapons inside the 13-prison system that holds roughly 16,000 male inmates…

To highlight the problem, investigators cited as an example a single week in September 2017 in which Alabama’s prisons saw a killing, three stabbings, a half-dozen severe beatings, two drug cases, four sex-abuse incidents, and a fatal drug overdose…

The investigation began in October 2016, a time when the Obama administration was a proponent of such “pattern and practice” investigations into law enforcement agencies with troubling track records of civil rights violations or mistreatment.

It continued during the Trump administration, despite then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s public statements critical of such work. Until his departure late last year, Sessions had sought to curtail pattern and practice probes in favor of criminal investigations of individuals who may have violated people’s rights.

This is truly deplorable and an abomination that a supposedly advanced and supposedly “Christian” country (as so many on the religious right like to claim) just accepts this horrible treatment of prisoners.  Prisoners are supposed to be punished by losing their liberty, not by constant threats and actions of physical violence.  And, it’s also pathetic that Sessions and many Republicans like him would like to completely ignore the fact that this happens on a completely systemic level and pretend that this is just a matter of individual actions.

This is a stain not only on Alabama, but our country as a whole that we treat our prisoners this way.

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