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Collapsing Bridge, Collapsing Profession

Yesterday was a long day driving back to Marietta, Ga. from a vacation in Sandwich, N. H. The day ended with the news of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, where I lived for 18 years before heading south in 2002. We know lots of people there and now we worry and pray that none of them or their families were on the bridge. Even though it is a big city, it always felt like a small town, where everyone feels connected and so we wait. We also watch the news from afar and see how awful CNN really is. Here is an unfolding disaster, where footage should be pouring out and instead we have more talking heads with a few minutes of video played over and over. Fortunately with the internet we can piece together more information via the Twin Cities’ local TV, Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. The latter had a very amateur-like video of a man whose car had fallen, but his story was so compelling that it was, in the end, the best part of the coverage.

But let’s back up to Sandwich, N.H., where one recent afternoon I had lunch there with Anne Burghardt, who along with her husband Jack, owned the Carroll County Independent, a weekly, where I held my first paying newspaper job. Today the Independent is owned by a chain and the journalism, according to Anne, has suffered. Then on the drive down we passed through Pennsylvania where I picked up the Allentown Morning Call, where I worked from 1979 to 1984. Back then it was still owned by the Miller family. The Rupert Murdoch, Dow Jones story was front and center on page A1 with the headline: Dow Jones bows before Rupert Murdoch’s empire. The reporter writing the story asked the question that all of us are trying to answer: “Why can’t even the best newspapers find a way to pay for themselves? “

Then the story mentioned how the Morning Call, itself a Tribune paper, was being taken over by billionaire Sam Zell. None of the papers I worked at are as good as they had been and that includes the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where I also worked when it was a family newspaper, and which now is a gutted remnant of its past under the ownership of equity firm Avista Capital Partners.

My collapsing profession and the collapsing bridge were a bit much to deal with in one day.

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One Response to “Collapsing Bridge, Collapsing Profession”

  1. David Erickson Says:

    Some of the most compelling reports on the disaster came from citizen journalists. I’ve written a comprehensive account of the role citizen journalism and media played in the coverage of the Minneapolis bridge collapse. You can read it here: Minneapolis Bridge Collapse & Citizen Journalism.