Newspapers are dying all over the United States. The headlines in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch (the only surviving daily paper in St. Louis) make you wonder how this paper has lasted even this long. As I review these cheesy headlines, I keep wondering “But what is the news?” Here are the top ten headlines featured on today’s Home Page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website:
- Streak of 100-degree weather in St. Louis area hits five days
- Allen Craig, hitting machine [Craig is a St. Louis Cardinal baseball player]
- Find your fun for the 4th
- Dog Days Quiz I: TV Dogs
- Andy Griffith, ‘Sheriff Taylor,’ dies at 86.
- Man bitten by copperhead in southeast Missouri dies
- Photo: Webster Groves residents eagerly await parade
- Missouri to get $32 million in GlaxoSmithKline fraud case
- Major installation of solar panels begins for new police station in Clayton
- Explosion damages window, trash bin outside Richmond Heights church
Compare the attached headlines to the type of reporting envisioned by the paper’s founder, Joseph Pulitzer. This comparison can be easily made by reading Pulitzer’s “Platform,” which is obscurely tucked onto the top of the Opinion Page of the print version of the Post-Dispatch:
I know that my retirement will make no difference in its cardinal principles, that it will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.
I often wonder what Joseph Pulitzer would have thought about the freak show news, the trivia, and the entertainment gossip, advertising and sports posing as news. I wonder what he would have thought about a daily paper that almost never covers a ten-year war that is draining $2 billion per week from the national treasury. I wonder would he would say when he didn’t see any meaningful coverage of pervasive government spying on its own citizens and the lack of any coverage regarding the federal government’s aggressive prosecution of whistle-blowers, suggesting that it’s not important for citizens to know what the government is actually doing in their name. I wonder how he would have reacted to the lack of coverage regarding Obama’s elaborate and illegal drone wars or the failure of the government to stand up for net neutrality?
I would like to ask him, “Mr. Pulitzer, could you please tell me what percentage of the stories in the modern day Post-Dispatch comport with the principles you have set forth in your excellent Platform?