Sunday, April 24, 2011

Concord Monitor going to a paywall in May

The new publisher of the Concord Monitor announced this morning that the newspaper will be implementing a paywall for its website starting on May 3: ["Coming soon: a charge for online access"].
The paper will also be adding an iPad app.
At around 2:45 p.m., there were already more than 90 comments on the announcement, most of them negative. This comment by the publisher, however, caught me guffawing just a bit:
After all, we're your watchdog and your marketplace of ideas and commerce. We celebrate your successes and help mourn your losses.
We are your best community connector. Nowhere can you find the depth and breadth of local news and information to match the Monitor.
Hmm, OK John, I'll take the bait on this one. So, the newspaper is a "watchdog" ... well, that all depends on how you look at it. Let's take a look at some of the important local news stories the Concord Monitor missed or flat out ignored in the last few years.
Was the Monitor a watchdog when the school district attorney was caught violating the state's lobbying law? No. Your reporter received an extensive packet of information about the incident and how school officials and our state senator colluded behind closed doors to hold up important legislation. She even received a walk-through from one of our local officials who had been tracking it all. Then, the person above the reporter killed the story, saying it wasn't a story. Wow. Your news operation will go after developer Steve Duprey over and over again for following the law, but when a connected attorney breaks the law, well, that's not a story in your newspaper's mind.
Was it a watchdog when it was revealed that one of the school charter commission candidates worked for the same law firm owned by the Concord school superintendent's husband? How about when it was revealed that one of the school charter commission candidates endorsed by the Monitor had a wife who worked part-time for the newspaper? Or when the teachers' union endorsed a slate of candidates but didn't even bother to talk to the candidates? No. Not a peep out of your news org.
How about investigating the use of PTA emails to influence the school charter commission study process? How about reporting on the hijacking of legislative bills that helped usher in the rigged study process (see above)? How about any extensive reporting on the issue beyond a couple of token hearing attendances? How about delving into emails of public officials that would have given you all the information that the attorney general later was given, thankfully, with the help of one of our state representatives who was actually being a watchdog for the residents of Concord? Nope.
Was the Monitor a watchdog investigating all the shenanigans going on at the cable access center? Reams and reams of stuff on that one. How one of the coordinators spent $19,000 to raise $3,000 in one of its fundraisers? How about wasting thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on travel junkets, and cookies and treats for the board? It's become a regular jobs program for one local family but there has never been a peep out of your news organization. Maybe it had something to do with the cable access center, at the time, paying the Monitor to take care of its website? ... I don't know.
How about the ridiculous city council rules committee hearing where the chairwoman of the committee was actually a host of a program on the same cable access center that was a part of the investigation? Did you ever write about the fact that she abused her power as a councilor by getting the Concord Police Dept. to investigate a private citizen who had a public record? No, no one from the Monitor ever did ... Not only that, when said private citizen wanted to publish a letter about the incident, the executive editor of your newspaper refused because she was afraid the city councilor might get mad at her. Sad, quite sad.
Watchdog John? No, not really, and that's truly unfortunate for you, your news org, and us.
The Concord Monitor was once a great newspaper. I know, I've been reading it since I was a boy. I used to peddle it, as did my brother. It was our first real jobs. The Monitor helped shape who I am today. As a newspaper man myself, I'm heartbroken to see what is going on in our business. And to see this newspaper shrink away to almost nothing is even more horrific.
But, at the same time, some of the employees of the operation have an insane obsession with controlling everything that goes on in this community. It is at the point now where huge news stories are being censored in order to preserve the editorial board's political agenda, an agenda that might not be in the best interests of the community. That is, frankly, dangerous journalism, not watchdog journalism.


Anonymous said...

Oh for the days of investigative journalism and two newspaper towns, driving the news through competition--being the first to break a story--and digging for the truth.

Instead we have the incredible shrinking Monitor. How long before it only exists in "virtual reality"?

Anonymous said...

public hearing Thu. nite on change to school board charter. As it now stands you need 60% of the vote to change the way we elect school board members are elected. all other elections require only a majority. Please show your concern or we are screwed again.