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Some Gripes About the New Detroit Free Press

April 1, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m three days into the Detroit Free Press’ new subscription service. Monday was the first time ever I did not get a morning Free Press. Now we get the New York Times during the week, so at least we get a paper. But, while it’s certainly excellent, it’s not really a replacement. (There is just no substitute for what was an excellent local paper.) Anyhow, reading the NYT yesterday, I found an article about the Detroit News & Free Press’ new format. Turns out it’s just a “truncated” newspaper on the nondelivery days. Who wants to read a truncated newspaper? IMHO, the Detroit News and Free Press are going out of business. I’ll try the online version, but, honestly, a truncated newspaper is no newspaper, whether online or not. Also, the quality has been steadily declining over the years, to the point where I no longer think there can be a recovery. Which is too bad, because from what I’ve heard, they have yet to find a way to make money with an online news format.

Does anybody besides me remember how great the Detroit Free Press used to be? I have many fond memories of reading it during the 1990’s. Even in early 2000-2003, it was still a pretty good paper. I miss the daily columnists perhaps most of all. But also the quality reporting, writing and editing. In the past few years, I just haven’t been able to identify with this Free Press. The reporting is, for the most part, not in depth. Granted, they broke the Kwamee Kilpatrick scandal which forced him out of office. But for all that, I felt like the tone of the reporting was so tabloidesque that I was even a bit ashamed of the paper. Recently, they released more text messages, and milked this release for all it’s worth as a major headline story. While it turned out to be not all that newsworthy, the small bit of new information they got from these messages was blown up and spread over two full pages in the middle of Section A. I noticed very little writing or reporting for this story; the newly released messages were just cut and pasted onto the paper, with little analysis. Is this really reporting? Would you find this kind of treatment in any reputable newspaper?

Another instance of disappointing reporting was an expose’ of the women’s prison, the Scott Correctional Facility. This story was treated almost like Women Behind Bars, repeating prisoners’ testimony about the abuse by male prison guards. I suppose this treatment was intended to sell papers to those whose morbid curiosity must be satisfied. But what happened to making a difference in society? Why couldn’t the reporting have also gone towards finding out how the abuse was allowed to continue for so long? Why not do some research and find out whether such abuse has been uncovered in other women’s prison facilities? Instead of asking officials the difficult questions, it seems like the Freep just sent reporters to the hearings, and they tried to emphasize the salacious testimony.

Well, this is all I have time for today. I look forward to taking advantage of this outlet the next time I find something to criticize (constructively, I hope).

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