Weeklies a bright spot in media future

Media in the United States have been undergoing huge changes -and that goes for Long Island, too. Jaci Clement, executivedirector of the Fair Media Council and a former Newsday reporterand editor, outlined changes that have happened here at the annualmeeting earlier this month of the Suffolk Cooperative LibrarySystem.

The biggest has to do with Newsday. Long Island’s only dailynewspaper has “closed all foreign bureaus, noted Ms. Clement in herPowerPoint presentation, cut its news staffs in Washington, Albanyand on Long Island, increased use of Associated Press wire copy and”merged operations with News12.

Commenting afterwards, Ms. Clement said the basic premise ofNewsday now is to be a local paper. Newsday, although a regionalpaper, used to have major national and international reach. Also,since its purchase by Cablevision in May 2008, Newsday, she said,has increasingly blended its content with Cablevision’s newsoutlet, News12 Long Island.

The Fair Media Council was established in 1979 primarily to pushfor coverage of Long Island in New York City-based media. That’sstill a focus of the Briarcliff College-based non-profitorganization. But its broad mission these days, as noted on itswebsite, is advocating for “quality local news coverage as vitalfor maintaining the community’s quality of life.

Ms. Clement is extremely concerned about the Newsday situationsaying it has “huge implications. With a shrunken staff andcoverage, readers, she says, “are receiving less information.Highly problematic, too, is one entity now controlling cable TV onLong Island and owning its only daily.

As for other area dailies, the termination this year of the LongIsland weekly section of The New York Times that provided “somediversity is also “a big deal ¦ a voice was lost, Ms.Clement noted. Meanwhile, the New York Daily News has reduced itsLong Island coverage and the New York Post does not “offer a lot ofcoverage and tends to favor “sensation over substance.

As for weekly newspapers, on Suffolk’s East End “the weekliesare very good. I wish they would expand. In western Suffolk andNassau County, the weeklies are not of such high quality. And inNassau especially, most are owned by chains with an attitude of”let us put out 15 editions with very few employees.

As to commercial radio, which used to be bustling with newsoperations on Long Island, she said that among the 19 stations nowhere there is only one full-time news reporter – David North atWALK. “In general, radio has gotten out of the news businessentirely, bemoaned Ms. Clement. “If you want radio news, it’s thecity stations – 880 and 1010.

Regarding the television scene, several of the New York City TVstations – which have long been heavily watched here – are nowsharing their Long Island “footage through a common news servicethey’ve formed.

Of Cablevision’s news coverage, News12 “is very small, commentedMs. Clement. Further, it’s an arm of a cable TV company that has”no mandate to work in the public interest as do on-air televisionstations that must do so under licenses granted them by the FederalCommunications Commission.

The Schmizzi brothers, owners of Wainscott-based WVVH-TV,”understand the importance of serving the public, she said. (Fulldisclosure: I’m chief investigative reporter at WVVH.)

How does Ms. Clement see Long Island’s media future? Sheanticipates more cutting back at Newsday. The “whole concept ofprinting a newspaper and delivering it is foreign for Cablevision.She predicted the departure of the paper’s editor, whichsubsequently happened.

“If weekly papers would wake up, they’re the ones with thegreatest opportunity, said Ms. Clement, who has also worked inweekly journalism on Long Island.

On the national scene, in 1983 “50 media companies in the U.S.owned the majority of news outlets, related Ms. Clement. “Now, it’sdown to 6. And people’s distrust of media institutions is “fuelingthe popularity of social networking. People are relying on socialnetworking sites to share news and information with those theytrust.

What can you do? “Get involved, declared Ms. Clement at theevent in Bellport. “Demand more from ¦ media outlets.Write letters. Complain directly to them or to the Fair MediaCouncil.