Local Commentary

Editorial: F.C’s ‘Persons of The Year’

We at the Falls Church News-Press have a special cause to gather with our friends at tonight’s (Dec. 13) 29th annual FCNP Holiday Party, to which all are invited. The annual fete will be held at its usual venue, the fellowship hall of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment at 222 N. Washington St. (next to the State Theater) from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Our special guests will be U.S. Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., with his deep Falls Church roots, and live music by the smashing George Mason High School jazz band that stole the show at the school’s recent production of the Broadway musical, “Chicago.” Anthony’s Restaurant will cater.

The party is a bit special this year because just this week Time magazine designated us, that is, all bonafide newspapers and news organizations, as “The Guardians,” collectively to be its “Persons of the Year.” We take this humbly as a poignant and worthy recognition of the news as one of democracy’s most essential institutions, and now under such fierce attack all across the globe by tyrants, all of whom, by the way, live in fear of their own people.

Not only those martyred for the cause are included in Time’s recognition of “The Guardians,” as its brilliant lead essay by Karl Vick accompanying the announcement spelled out. For all the issues that have brought news organizations under siege nationally and globally, the bonds between journalists and the communities they cover at the local level, as in our case, remain strong, Time reports, citing a Poynter Institute poll showing more than 70 percent of Americans express either a “fair amount” or “a great deal” of trust in both their local papers and local TV news, even, as it says, “as resources for both continue to shrink.”

With the explosion of the Internet’s role as a source for news, real or false, for better or worse, “engagement” with an audience means any activity on the platform which maximizes profits for companies that sell their public’s attention to advertisers, Time notes. “Print media and TV sells ads too, but their primary product is credibility.” Unfortunately, the Internet has siphoned away ad revenue, with roughly 60 percent of every digital advertising dollar in the U.S. now going to Google or Facebook.

The net effect is that the number of professional journalists has dropped from 114,000 in 2009 to 88,000 in 2017, with almost 1,800 newspapers lost since 2004, according to the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media in a report this October. Of the 3,143 counties in the U.S., only half now have just one newspaper and 200 have no newspaper, and between 1,300 and 1,400 communities that had newspapers of their own in 2004 now have no local news coverage at all.

In terms of the big media, now only five corporations control what most Americans see or hear, compared to 50 in 1983.