ProJo Administers Both Pink Slip and Red Pen

In an exclusive at Not For Nothing, Ian Donnis has learned not only the identity of the editorial writer laid off at the Providence Journal – David A. Mittell, Jr. – but that the ProJo refused to print his last column, which was critical of how newspapers have been operated in recent years.
At what point does such a decision cross the line from the inalienable right of an owner to operate his private business as he sees fit to censorship?
Below is an excerpt from Mr. Mittell’s spiked column, more of which can be read at Not for Nothing.

The Boston Globe has reduced the number of papers distributed to stores — presumably to save the cost of picking up unsold copies. I would call it suicide.
You would think newspapers would be democratic; “Here are my clips. Judge me accordingly!” In fact, large newspapers are hierarchical bishoprics in which power takes a long time to acquire and is jealously guarded. De-ossifying antiquated stratification, not gutting content, is the correct imperative.
This newspaper, like many others, runs three-inch ads stuck on the front page above the fold. We were sorely criticized in 2006, when a political ad of this genre ran on election day. A candidate had outsmarted his rivals. What would they have said if we had censored the ad? The critic missed the more revealing point that the literally tacky ad eclipsed the news headline and a logo commemorating the Journal’s 175 years of service to Rhode Island and the nation.

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Will
12 years ago

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!
Kudos to Dave.

rhody
rhody
12 years ago

Ah, the liberal MSM strikes again!
In all seriousness, this is more evidence that the press is only truly free for the man who owns one.

Thomas Schmeling
Thomas Schmeling
12 years ago

“the inalienable right of an owner to operate his private business as he sees fit ”
I’m sorry. I must have missed that day in Con Law. or Political Philosophy, or American Government.
Where can that right be found, please?
Let me guess…Atlas Shrugged?
I KNOW it’s not in Adam Smith.

chuckR
chuckR
12 years ago

Thomas
A business owner does have an inalienable right to operate his business as he sees fit, as long as it doesn’t violate some law or other. Surely you must agree that a newspaper owner has an inalienable right to set the editorial content – to his benefit or detriment. That also extends to setting policy regarding what type of story is spiked and what type is published (and how much and what type of editorializing is included in said news stories). Determining any sort of damage to the general public from the actions of ink stained wretches is a job for the Ministry of Truth. I don’t think you want that, because that is a weapon that can be wielded by partisans of all political persuasions.
The current result of journalism’s inability to simply tell ‘who, what, when, where, how (and possibly) why’ is the on-going creative destruction of their business. And that is reflected in their stock price and the declining number of readers/listeners/watchers, given the alternative information sources that did not exist a decade or two ago. They are like mastodons at the end of the Ice Age….

rhody
rhody
12 years ago

The destruction of the business, actually, can be blamed on consolidation of ownership and attempts to maintain profit margins most American businesses would kill for.
When competition arrives, most businesses respond by trying to improve the product. The barons of the newspaper world, however, responded by weakening the product. Of course, customers voted with their feet.

Thomas Schmeling
Thomas Schmeling
12 years ago

ChuckR,
You say.
“A business owner does have an inalienable right to operate his business as he sees fit, as long as it doesn’t violate some law or other.”
This might be just a matter of semantics, but I always thought that an inalienable right was one that could not be diminished or taken away, and that a law that takes away an inalienable right is illegitimate. It’s really a natural-law construct.
If all you need to restrict the right of an owner to operate his private business as he sees fit is “some law or other”, it’s not really “inalienable”, is it?

chuckR
chuckR
12 years ago

Thomas
I think we can agree there are many illegitimate laws.
Rhody
If newspaper owners can’t get a clue on how to survive, then I suppose they might as well take the maximum profit. I believe they simply don’t know how to improve the product.

rhody
rhody
12 years ago

Chuck, if you’re comparing newspaper barons to the Big 3 auto CEOs, you’re on it.
That’s precisely what happened with JRC, which used to own three other dailies in the state. Its CEO’s lust for acquisition and resulting massive debt service has essentially killed the company, even though its papers, as seperate entities, are still profitable.
Maybe ProJo management would have steered a different course if there had been viable competition.

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