Who makes news that's fit to print?

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Today, Spillman and Ford debate the changing role of the destination media. Previously they discussed the role of blogs and mainstream press in the Mirthala Salinas story and the distinction between credentialed and non-credentialed media. Later this week, they'll discuss dealing with spin from public figures and more.

We can do it By Eric Spillman
Luke,

If I don't sound coherent, I apologize in advance. My mind has been fried by reporting all day on Lindsay Lohan's latest escapade, which is a shame, because today's topic is serious.

The traditional media outlets in town must do more than just be a stamp of authority on news that everyone already knows. We can bring much-needed context and background to important stories. We can enlighten on issues that bind this region together. And most of important of all, we can focus on news that is relevant.

We have to do something. Newspapers are losing readers and TV newscasts are losing viewers.

The reasons for this may not be our fault. People have less time than they used to. They're spending many hours stuck in traffic. And when they do want to find out what's happening, they have plenty of options. People don't have to be passive consumers of news anymore. The Internet has brought more democracy to the flow of information. Local independent blogs have become graffiti boards where stories and rumors are traded. They are giving the average person a chance to participate in a way that they've not had before.

The bottom line is: We have more competition now, and that means we've got to do better.

The question today is about whether we in the old media still can and should break news that matters. Of course we should. In television, I get a sick feeling whenever anyone uses the term "breaking news" because, in my line of work, that phrase usually means we're reporting on something that doesn't really matter to most of the audience. When you see the "breaking news" banner across the screen, get ready for a celebrity arrest, an overturned big rig on the freeway or a police chase.

Let's stop that stuff and give the audience something with more depth. I hope my bosses are listening.

Luke, go ahead, beat up on us some more.

Eric Spillman has been a reporter for KTLA's "Morning Show" since 1991. He blogs at ktla.com.


I live in a hovel. You live in a townhouse!By Luke Ford
Dear Eric,

I want to make a difference. I want to give my readers something they can't get elsewhere. As a blogger with no love, no life and no money, I must do that or die.

My life is humiliation alternating with desperation. Out-of-control narcissism leaves me with lots of time and a big chip on my shoulder. Writing is how I connect with others. Publishing scoops makes me feel important.

You're already important. You've got the awards and the job to prove it. You have a life. You have a wife and kids.

I ain't got none of those things.

And I resent it.

You're a general assignment TV reporter. That is a cool gig unless you want to break stories.

If every TV news program in Los Angeles shut down, our understanding of our city would be essentially unchanged. Be it KTLA or KCBS or KNBC or KABC, local TV news is worthless (except as entertainment).

What is my proof? The paucity of important stories broken by local TV reporters.

Eric, if you had spent Tuesday in bed with Paris Hilton instead of chasing the Lindsay Lohan story, our knowledge of Lindsay Lohan and the issues her case raise would be undiminished. With all the reporters chasing her story, you can't add much in your few minutes of air time. Only a print reporter or blogger can do something special.

This isn't your fault. It's the nature of the medium. TV appeals to the eye, and when people pursue eye candy, "they prostitute themselves" (Numbers 15:39).

If you want to be deep, you have to read. If you want to understand our town right now, you have to read the Los Angeles Times, which has more power (and more accomplished reporters) than every other news organization in L.A. put together.

The Times sets our agenda. Even those who hate the paper and proclaim they never read it are profoundly affected by it because the people who run our city read it and make decisions, in part, by what it publishes.

If a mover-and-shaker in Los Angeles has a story that he wants widely distributed by the most influential media, he won't turn to me until he has been rejected by all the professional reporters.

I get the droppings. I get the crap that other media don't want to touch.

Did I break the Villaraigosa story because I'm a great journalist? Was I first to publish about Anthony Pellicano's troubles because I am so swell? No. I just happened to chitchat with real journalists who wanted to get their stories moving.

I generally hear from the losers of society, those with stories rejected by The Times and the Jewish Journal. I get phone calls at 2 a.m. from drunks and drug addicts. I listen for hours to women who were thrown out of their shul or marriage or university and want to get even.

In this muck, I make my home. But when I look up, I see stars like you, Eric, and I have hope.

Luke Ford of lukeford.net has earned his living from blogging for a decade. He's the author of five books, four of them self-published.

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