The Tribune chimes in...

Posted by Mitchell - March 9, 2003 (entry 12)

" End the ban on cross-ownership," reads the headline on today's Chicago Tribune editorial page.

I just fired off a letter to the Tribune (which I went ahead and wrote on my own), which reads as follows:

The Chicago Tribune should heed critics who "howl" against removing the ban on media cross-ownership. We've seen the repeal of ownership restrictions in the radio industry, and the results haven't been pretty: fewer radio owners, staff layoffs despite massive profits, and computerized stations playing prearranged and predictable content.

In its estimate of media ownership matters, the Tribune should consider more and broader gauges of journalism quality. Besides ratings and awards, these gauges should include the number of sources, the diversity of those sources, and the quality of journalistic analysis.

The cross-ownership ban is there not as a restriction against markets but to insure means for diverse media for timely and important communications. Case in point: some 300 people in Minot, North Dakota were hospitalized because of a chemical spill, and police had difficulty alerting those people in time because most of the local media outlets (radio stations, in this case) were owned by a single company--which didn't happen to have anyone on staff at the time of the spill.

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