The past few days have seen a wave of change sweep across the Missouri news landscape. Taken individually, each might be easily dismissed. Taken as a whole however, a disturbing reality begins to take shape.
American Spring has long contended that local media is the key to breaking the stranglehold corporate powers enjoy. It lies in the people who live in our communities, in those responsible for reporting news. They must be held to the standard of their profession instead of acting like the public relations arm for the lunatic fringe and apologists for those who profit from the manipulation and obfuscation of fact. With alarming speed, Missouri’s media is being transformed into a corporate marketing machine.
On July 26, the News-Press & Gazette, a St. Joseph based media group, signed an agreement to purchase four Columbia, MO television stations. These include KMIZ-TV, Fox-22, MyZouTV and Me-TV. The purchase price reported was $16 million dollars. This expands the News-Press Gazette’s media holdings in the state of Missouri, which already includes the following newspapers:
St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph), Green Acres (St. Joseph), The Daily-Star Journal (Warrensburg), Gladstone Dispatch (Gladstone), Kearney Courier (Kearney) , Liberty Tribune (Liberty) and Smithville Herald (Smithville).
Additionally, NPG owns several print media properties in northeast Kansas, and the KC metro area. These include:
The Atchison Globe (Atchison), Hiawatha World (Hiawatha), Louisburg Herald (Louisburg), Miami County Republic (Paola), Osawatomie Graphic (Osawatomie), Johnson County Sun (Overland Park).
NPG also owns or operates the following television stations in the western US:
Bend, OR: KTVZ, KFXO-LD, KQRE-LP. Colorado Springs, CO: KRDO-TV. El Paso, TX; Las Cruces, NM: KVIA-TV, KAEP-LP. Grand Junction, CO: KJCT. Idaho Falls-Pocatello, ID: KIFI-TV, KIDK, KXPI-LD. Palm Springs-Indio, CA: KESQ-TV, KDFX-CA, KUNA-LP, KCWQ-LP, KPSP-CD. Yuma, AZ: KECY-TV, KESE-LP.
And of course, K16KF-D, KNPN-LD and News Press NOW 3 in St. Joseph.
It becomes increasingly difficult, when faced with this list, to consider NPG holdings as ‘local’ Missouri news outlets.
Carole Dunn of the St. Joseph News Press, when asked about the flurry of changes in MO news, commented via Tweet: “Change isn’t always a bad thing. I think you’re seeing the media move into a whole new era.”
As American Spring previously noted here, our local media is increasingly controlled by a select few corporate interests. Rust Communications, Gatehouse Media and NPG are major players in shaping the perceptions of rural Missourians. Taken in total, they own a staggering percentage of the news properties in Missouri and, as a result, have undue influence over our state.
This corporate takeover of our news isn’t the only disturbing development to hit Missouri newsrooms in recent days.
July 28. The St.Louis Post-Dispatch announced that it would cut 23 employees. It’s parent corporation, Lee Enterprises, reported that the cuts were made to improve the bottom line. Lee Enterprises is the fourth largest newspaper group in the country, with 54 newspapers in 23 states.
July 29. The Kansas City Star announced a round of furloughs, while also increasing their subscription rates. This raise in rates applies also to their internet presence, as they, and other papers are restricting access via internet to the news. The McClatchy Company, owners of the Star, have made similar moves at other papers across the country.
July 30. The Sedalia Democrat, owned by Versa Capital Management, announced the transition to a pay-for-access platform, or paywall, for their website. This change was met with overwhelmingly negative reaction from the communities they serve.
Sedalia Democrat Editor Bob Satnan, when asked about this shift by American Spring, commented: “Content we create has value, is worth paying for. Our kids deserve to eat, too.”
While that logic is difficult to refute, therein lies the problem. Our local media has become a victim of the bottom line. Whether it is the closure of news bureaus, increased subscription and internet access rates or the elimination of journalists and their support staff, our communities are the true victims of this ‘new era’ of Missouri media.
News outlets cannot be held to the dictates of the bottom line. If they are, they stop serving us and serve only their advertisers and corporate ownership. It is the psychopathy of the bottom line that decides what qualifies as newsworthy.
The importance of a press free of corporate influence and advertisers demands cannot be overstated.
If, indeed, this is the ‘new era’ of Missouri media, we are all in trouble.