Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Slogan Says It All?

(Ben Markeson)

Not too many years ago, the Orlando Sentinel proudly carried the slogan "The Best Newspaper in Florida" upon its masthead. The Sentinel-no offense intended to anyone who worked there-probably never was the best newspaper in Florida (that honor belongs to the St. Petersburg Times). However, that slogan bespoke an aspiration, maybe even a commitment, to become the best newspaper in Florida. It also signaled that the paper believed in trying to do the best possible journalism it could, in giving something of value and worth to the community (rather than just seeing it as a profit center) because that community-not limited solely to its paying readers-deserved a non-partisan institution that would report on important happenings in the community fully and fairly and would always strive through its editorial voice to uphold what it considered the best interests of the community (not that its was always right ; the most egregious case in recent memory being its fervent support for the obscenely expensive and unnecessary new venues).

Fast forward to today's new, redesigned Sentinel. What slogan now adorns its new shrunken masthead? "Reaching 1.2 million people weekly in print and online." So now a public commitment to journalism has been replaced with bragging about the shrinking newspaper's market share. And the claim about the size of that has already shrunk. In the initial days of the redesign it was 1.3 million people, but that was soon changed to 1.2 million. (How many of them are cancellations of subscribers who feel cheated by the new Sentinel is anyone's guess.) This new slogan begs the question of why should a Sentinel reader care about how many others do the same? Is that how the quality of something is supposed to be measured, by how many people consume it? This is pathetic, but it baldly reflects the new money-grubbing, penny-pinching corporate mentality of Sam Zell and his hirelings. And it shows how their takeover of an important community institution has impoverished our community.

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