Friday, August 20, 2010

Paid News Reporters On The Endangered Species List

Earlier this month I told you about news reporter Colby Frazier of the Daily Sound leaving the paper and moving to Utah. The story was linked to on Edhat and one of the readers there left this comment:

Mr. Smith, please do more investigative reporting. If S.B. is losing paid reporters, you are there to do the gutsy and professional in-depth investigative reporting.

Leave the pain of the News-Press behind, and now shine, heroically, as a bright light on other issues. Dig. Expose. Expose who really runs things, and how absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Huh? I was a little taken aback. But then I thought to myself: "How much does that job pay?"

Let's face it. I'm an amateur. I'm the guy that sits in the back of the class watching everything that goes on while cracking jokes the whole time. Like the blind pig who finds an acorn every once in a while, I uncover the occasional gem of information, but I'm not a trained journalist.

Investigative reporting is far too important to leave to the amateurs of the world.

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Yet, if you look around here, the paid news reporters are becoming fewer and further in between. Take the News-Press which for reasons we know all too well has seen an exodus of staff over the past four years. With the recent departure of Marci Wormser they are down to three news reporters and a business reporter to cover the hard news. (I'm not including sports or feature reporters in my head counts.) Those other bylines appearing in the paper are from freelancers. Several of them, Matt Bloise, Morgan Hoover and Christina Kirchner reportedly have connections to the Reagan Ranch Foundation leading one to wonder, "Is Wendy McCaw running an affirmative action program for underprivileged Republican youth?"

This summer saw the departures of news reporters Frazier and Eric Lindbergh from the Daily Sound. Josh Molina is now the editor. But he overlooks a newsroom that is made up largely of free lancers and interns.

Like the Daily Sound and the News-Press, Noozhawk has lost staff recently with reporter Ben Preston departing the online newspaper to go back east to attend journalism school at Columbia University. Also, within the last year, Rob Kuznia, the first reporter hired by Noozhawk, left to take a job in Torrance with the Daily Breeze as their K -12 education reporter.

Despite this, Noozhawk seems to still have a lot of hands on deck for a vessel of its size with two full-time news reporters, Lara Cooper and Giana Magnoli, and a recently hired full-time business writer, Ray Estrada. Sonia Fernandez, who also freelances for the News-Press, covers Goleta City Hall for Noozhawk. Managing editor, Michelle Nelson, does reporting as well, in addition to her production duties.

According to publisher Bill Macfadyen, Noozhawk relies heavily on interns several of whom are college students who went to high school here. Michael Goldsholl, Danny Langhorne, Lindsey Weintraub and Victoria Kahmann are all spending their summer vacation back at home in Santa Barbara and working at Noozhawk.

Although interns don't get paid at least there's home cooking. And, as Macfadyen points out: "You can't get a job without experience but you can't get experience without a job."

So if they aren't ready to do it this summer, maybe by next summer those interns will be ready to do "the gutsy and professional in-depth investigative reporting" that Edhat commenter longs for. That way I can keep my seat here in the back of the classroom.

After all, if someone is going to do that all that work and not get paid, better them than me.

© 2010 by Craig Smith and