LIMA — When Abe Zaidan was an editor at the Akron Beacon Journal, he had a staff of 40-plus reporters. Now that staff is just 11 reporters, the victim of shrinking advertising revenue, fragmented audiences and a more intense focus on the paper’s bottom line.
Zaidan, who has more than 40 years experience in journalism including being part of the Beacon Journal team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 1970 Kent State shooting, was at OSU-Lima on Thursday as the featured speaker for the Lima Honors Colloquium.
His speech focused on the problems in media and the problems in politics — and how they’re often intertwined.
The 24-hour news cycle has led to filling “dead space with dead talk,” Zaidan said.
“There are stories going on today that the news media, television in particular, gobble up because it gives them something to talk about,” he said. At the same time, newspapers no longer have the staff to cover smaller political subdivisions, preventing them from their traditional watchdog role.
And politicians everywhere, he said, need to be watched.
“There is so much that is ludicrous going on in the political world,” he said.
Some of that translates into media.
“That’s another feature of American journalism, if you can call it journalism,” Zaidan said. “You have to be more outrageous than the other guy.”
CNN, for example, recently hired Erick Erickson. Zaidan said he sees him as one of many trying to capitalize on the following and wealth Rush Limbaugh has found.
Despite all the issues Zaidan sees with media, he still sees a future for newspapers.
“I think there’ll be something delivered to your door each day. I think it’s down to the irreducible minimum now. Because they are making money, you don’t get rid of something if it’s making money. I don’t see how you can possibly eliminate it.”