Kansas Senate blocks new journalism

Does the application for press credentials to the Kansas Senate contain questions designed to limit or restrict the types of organizations that apply?

A bit of background: In a New York Times op-ed from a year ago (News You Can Endow), the authors tell of the financial troubles of newspapers: “Today, we are dangerously close to having a government without newspapers. American newspapers shoulder the burden of considerable indebtedness with little cash on hand, as their profit margins have diminished or disappeared.” The reaction of newspapers: “News organizations have cut costs, with grave consequences.”

It’s an important issue. As the article states: “If [Thomas] Jefferson was right that a well-informed citizenry is the foundation of our democracy, then newspapers must be saved.” I would argue that it doesn’t matter much if newspapers survive in their present form of physical delivery — as the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund has said, on dead trees.

But newspaper-style journalism must survive. Former editor of the Wichita Eagle W. Davis “Buzz” Merritt wrote a book that chronicles some of the changes in newspapers over the past decades (Knightfall: Knight Ridder and How the Erosion of Newspaper Journalism Is Putting Democracy At Risk). My review of the book contains Merritt’s summary of the properties of newspaper-style journalism that separates it from other forms: “… newspaper journalism is ‘not shaped by a limiting technology,’ such as a television broadcast; it values completeness over immediacy, it is lengthier and deeper than other sources of journalism, its goal is relevance rather than entertainment, and opinion and analysis is presented separately from news.”

Returning to Kansas: Newspapers in Kansas have suffered financially. The Wichita Eagle and Kansas City Star have reduced their staff. Morris Publishing, owner of the Topeka Capital-Journal, recently filed for bankruptcy.

Now some organizations have been created and are stepping up to fill the void. These organizations are of the type that the Times op-ed recommends as a way to save newspapers: non-profit organizations.

Specifically, Kansas Watchdog and Kansas Reporter, both started last year, provide coverage of Kansas issues. Both are staffed by experienced journalists, some with reporting backgrounds in Kansas newspapers. Similar efforts are springing up in many states.

They’re both non-profit organizations, and that has created a problem.

Here’s a question on the application for Kansas Senate press credentials: “Please list below the organization’s shareholders, owners or major contributors: (Shareholders, owners or major contributors of 5% or over)”

The problem is that many people who donate to non-profit organizations prefer to remain anonymous. Donors may prefer anonymity for any number of reasons.

Regarding donor-funded journalism, some argue that anonymous donors will require that the news be produced in a way that advances a political agenda. That’s possible, and equally so for news outlets on both the political left and right. It can happen whether donors are anonymous or known. It happens in traditional media, no matter what the structure of ownership.

These issues — primarily how newspaper-style and investigative journalism will survive — are vitally important. It’s likely that the answers will be known only after a period of experimentation where answers are hammered out in public.

But Stephen Morris, who is president of the Kansas Senate, seems determined not to let this happen.

You can read all the questions the Kansas Senate President’s Office asks by clicking on 2010 Kansas Senate Press Credentialing Application.

8 Comments

  • Ty Dillon -

    It is only because the SOK is 10 years behind.

    The going joke was, is that if the world ends in 2012, it won’t hit here until 2022.

  • Preordained1 -

    Bob:

    Considering that you have included a definition of journalism from Mr. Merritt: “… newspaper journalism is ‘not shaped by a limiting technology,’ such as a television broadcast; it values completeness over immediacy, it is lengthier and deeper than other sources of journalism, its goal is relevance rather than entertainment, and opinion and analysis is presented separately from news.” I would hope that you are not under the impression that your work remotely approaches that description.

    Do not get me wrong, you are a very talented writer and propagandist. But journalist, oh please.

    Your work makes no separation between fact and opinion, is always a product of ideology, and has no regard for presenting opposing views in anything other than a derogatory light.

    I would also suggest one reason “that many people who donate to non-profit organizations prefer to remain anonymous.” – they are cowards and afraid to have the views of out and out proselytizers like you associated with their name.

  • The papers a loseing because they are so byest,and one sided.
    So they need to kose, and le some one else take overht isn’t.
    from Carol B.

  • Preordaned1, you need to relax. Bob is a citizen journalist. Do you know of any media outlet that doesn’t mix facts with opinions? Don’t tell me that most reporters and talk-heads do not present a particular ideology? The issue is that you want censorship for those that you do not agree with. You want to discredit them. I have contributed to several children advocacy groups and requested to remain anonymous because I did not want “credit” for it. Anonymous does not make anyone a coward.
    “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It is what you know for sure that just ain’t so”.

  • I do not know one newspaper or magazine that is not biased in some way.

    Recently the AP assigned 12 journalists to research and read Sarah Palin’s book. (less than 500 pages…)

    On the other hand, they assigned only 2 journalists to research and read the 2000 page Senate Healthcare bill.

    Hmmm

  • Mark Redeker -

    Journalism died last year with a U.S. Press so biased they would not even attempt to tell the background of the current commander and thief. Thereby helping force this misguided moron down the voting publics throat. The newspapers and other forms of media who perpetrated this crime will suffer this fate for their lack of consistency. Others will come in to fill the void and they will be much more scrutinized for their predecessors shortcomings!

  • Anonymous -

    Preordained1:

    Didn’t you notice that Bob never mentioned himself or his blog in this article? Your irrational hatred towards Bob is so controlling that you’ll make up a reason to criticize him.

    Besides this: criticizing donors for wishing to be anonymous: that makes about as much sense as leaving comments anonymously. I’d recommend to Bob that he eliminate anonymous comments so that people have to own their words.

    (I realize I am leaving this comment anonymously.)

  • LonnythePlumber -

    Knightfall is a good book and explains Eagle history as well as what has happened nationally to newspapers. I agree less TV. No TV is better.

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