The Buffalo News does not intend to die.
The fact that that sentence even needs to be written is a stark example of how much things have changed. And not for the better.
Sunday's Buffalo News Opinion pages began the annual observance of Sunshine Week with editorials that not only call for transparent government but also raise concerns about whether there will be enough newspapers, and newspaper reporters, to carry that information to you.
The lead is "Keeping the media strong." It explains how, even though there is a lot of news to write, and a lot of people still reading it, the ability of the writers to make money from the readers is quickly vanishing in an online world.
Despite the occasional rant by a blogger, those problems are not tied primarily to perceptions of media bias. Papers with liberal or conservative editorial pages alike are threatened, and here at The News our monitoring tells us more people than ever before are reading our paper—although more and more of them are accessing it for free, online. The journalism isn’t broken. The business model is, and we’re working to change it—constantly improving our Web sites and designing specialty publications, for example.
The second -- "Federal shield law needed" -- explains the need for laws that keep the government and its doings open to the people it is supposed to serve.
And the Sunday Viewpoints cover story -- Jerry Zremski's "Out of the shadows" -- explains the history of Sunshine Week and outlines the possibility that things may be more open under the new Obama administration.
But, face it, without newspapers, the kind that do the real reporting and digging and comparing and contrasting and, on our pages, evaluating, it doesn't matter if all government doings are open. Nobody'd hear about them anyway.
Other exortations on the importance of open government from:
- Ohio's Chillicothe Gazette: Closed-mindedness, while not the norm, breeds suspicion. Freedom of information and open meetings, on the other hand, bring the light of day to the residents and help them make informed decisions.
- The Arizona Republic's distinguished counsel, David Bodney, quotes James Madison: A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or both.
- The Nashville Tennessean's Mark Silverman*: The best test of this administration's commitment to open government will be the transparency given the economic stimulus program.
-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer
* Silverman's title is editor and vice president/content and audience development. An example of what we're all up against trying to figure out this brave new world.