Dec 11, 2015

Allentown And Its Newspaper

When I was a kid, the paper was printed twice a day, The Morning Call and The Evening Chronicle. Many subscribers, like my parents, received both editions. The paper was locally owned, as were the businesses that advertised within. The owner/publisher, the Miller family, were part of an oligarchy that ran Allentown. Donald Miller was also a partner in Park&Shop, predecessor to today's parking authority.

Today, the paper is owned by the Tribune Company, and has virtually no institutional memory of the town. To my knowledge, there is nobody on the staff born in Allentown. The most senior writers arrived in Allentown no earlier than the early 1970's. When the paper asks for memories or photographs of the heydays, what they receive is all new to them. Yesterday, a columnist recommended a history written by somebody who left Allentown as a 15 year old in 1962, and never returned, except for a visit in 2010.

The newspaper situation in Allentown mirrors a national trend. Many communities, like Bethlehem, no longer have a local paper. I just think that each article they write should have a disclaimer.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

We have a national problem that must be fixed. There is no longer any shame, nor remorse, in being deceitful.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

The paper often resembles a vehicle for the local chamber of commerce rather than a dispenser of actual news. How is routine commercial activity front page news? The reporters are kids out of J school who have zero institution knowledge of the entities they are covering, and they apparently aren't learning it. By they way, they are very sensitive to criticism and take attempts at corrections as personal attacks.

The world of journalism has changed. I for one miss real news.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Same all over Mike, take a look at those tocks island damn project videos on my face book page. I was one of the people fighting to get the land back, and keep a river, not turn it into a ill managed national park.


Ted Yost.

Anonymous said...

A great newspaper or other media outlet will find a way to critically analyze economic endeavors, expose political corruption and otherwise provide objective reporting about a local community while at the same time highlighting that community's positives and assets. Honest and efficient government, and a strong sustainable economic base are in themselves the outcomes that deserve acclaim. Local print newspapers acting as watchdogs used to be vehicles to help make those things happen. Unfortunately the economics of publishing have changed and the challenge will be for an enterprise to find a way to make enough money to support an adequate staff of investigative reporters in an age where blogs, social media and other innovative technologies have surpassed print for the transmittal of accurate and timely information.

doug_b said...

It's supposed to be the 'Fourth Estate', the watchdog of government.

Being critical is not bad, it helps shine a light on problems. Constructive criticism is even better.

The MCall 'Bill' guy doesn't understand his role. He wants a positive outcome (don't we all), but supporting the status quo does nothing to guarantee a good outcome. And neither does criticism - if something is going to work - it's going to work - criticism or not.

An arena, office buildings, restaurants, are not 'tools of production', just buildings. How can the MCall infer that this will revitalize Allentown?

I can tell you there are lots of empty office buildings all over the US.

Bernie O'Hare said...

MM, Surely you can't be espousing residency as a requirement for writing at a newspaper. I don't live there or in Bethlehem but will write about what is going on.

michael molovinsky said...

bernie@12:11, residency certainly isn't a requirement, but when it comes to institutional memory, somebody has to be from the area, or lived here for a significant period. in the case of the history book promoted by bill white, the author having lived in boston over 40 years, his source consisted solely of morning call clippings; that doesn't meet molovinsky on allentown standards. the author concluded that the NIZ was the best thing since white bread. maybe white was trying to promote the niz, or the new moravian book store, because his column made no sense. that said, the best news reporters at the call are usually the newer ones, who came from out of town. the ones who have been here the longest, are generally the worse. i assume that they become too connected and comfortable.

Anonymous said...

What you're really mourning is the death of constructive criticism.

I offer that the baby boomer generation despises constructive criticism because it makes trouble for the status quo.

For generations before, it was a required, expected part of the democratic process. Not anymore.

Jamie Kelton said...

I don't mind so much that the people who work at The Morning Call aren't from Allentown. I notice that on many of the stories, that it says "contract reporter" or the stories are pulled off the Tribune Syndicate or AP. I think the writer who did local history anyway got fired a few years ago, but he's on WFMZ

What I do not like is the MC promoting what it favors as "news" when it belongs in the business section. RE: NIZ in particular. I'm sorry, a new restraunt is not front page news.

As far as being slanted politically, the MC is not "facts on file" like in the library. All newspapers put a political slant on the news. But today we have other alternative news sources to read other opinions.

Dreaming of Justice said...

All due respect to Michael, but I disagree with the perceived need to have lived in a city to be able to write a history book- or any book-about the city in question. To follow that rationale would be very difficult. There are many ways to research a subject such as Allentown. An author can interview long time residents; utilize academic institution and libraries; use public records for people and events and so on. Most of today's historic novels/biographies are researched in just such a fashion, of necessity. Maybe to an outside view things seem better than we know them to be; maybe an outsider's view can enlighten our own.

michael molovinsky said...

dreaming@2:02, i was referring to the specific book hyped by bill white. in fairness to the author, i haven't read the book. however, in fairness to me, it sounds like another self published tract, but done remotely. bill white praises his take on emma tropiano, and white himself misrepresents her. again, i reiterate that this author used the morning call as his primary source. that said, of course it's not necessary for a historian to live when or where the subject matter takes place.

Anonymous said...

Scott Armstrong it right on in his observation that Morning Call reporters are very sensitive to criticism. They are known to 'unfriend' people who respectfully challenge them on Facebook posts. And they are so defensive of any criticism of the news media in general. It really is an 'us vs. them' attitude with reporters.
It pains me to have to post as an 'anon' but I need to work with the MC and ET on a regular basis and know it would negatively affect my business if I revealed myself.

doug_b said...

IMO if Allentown is going to survive, someone with an historical perspective needs to educated the readers why Allentown succeeded. With contract reporter, 'new guys' you are not going to get that perspective.

Most of us people (I'm 66) that were born in Allentown, have an idea of how/why it became so productive. There's a very small time line (maybe 10 years) until we're gone. If you don't get the real low down now - you never will.

Then you'll have some outsider saying: "Well it's looks pretty good" - Without any reference to the past

GDub said...

Have to disagree here--a rare event on this blog. Keith Groller (admittedly, a sports guy) is a true-blue Allentonian and a Dieruff graduate.

Only in Allentown/the Lehigh Valley would a professional writer like Bill White who has lived here for nearly 40 years be described still as an "out of towner." This provincial attitude was not helpful 40 years ago when businesses started moving out and a strategic thought other than "this is how we've always done it" was most needed.

I think it is fair to remind that the old guard had little to offer when circumstances changed--they failed at running their own businesses for the most part and they failed to maintain the ability for Allentown to change with the times. Why wouldn't new blood be right in these circumstances?

michael molovinsky said...

gdub@10:10, thanks for the input about the sports section. a confession; i'm not a sports fan, do not read or follow, nor know about the writers in that section.

my criticism of the paper and certain writers is experience based. i have been involved with a series of issues spanning over two decades, in which time i have seen issues under-reported and misreported. although bill white takes umbrage at these assertions, he has defended associates over the facts.

allentown has mirrored the country in its shopping moving to suburbia. although the demographic changes with the influx of low income replacing a working class seemed almost unique, in fact, it occurred all over eastern pennyslvania.

the jury is still out on the NIZ and the new blood,but i can tell you that the new regime certainly didn't get any scrutiny from the local media, and doesn't appreciate it from here either.

Anonymous said...

Gdub,

Bill White avoided writing about Allentown and its many problems. In this there is no doubt. As to your comment regarding the "old regime", let's pretend for the sake of argument that your statement is true, would that make the current situation more excusable?
Under Bill Heydt the city was turning around. Community groups were encouraged rather than controlled and citizens who dared address issues of public concern were not vilified. There were home ownership programs in the downtown and the Rental Inspections Bill was passed. Mike and I will never agree on this program but even he would admit it was an attempt to address the spreading blight in the downtown.Lights in the Parkway, and yes, Bill wanted to bring a hockey team to town. if I recall correctly that receiving nothing but scathing press coverage.

Scott Armstrong

GDub said...

Scott,

I'm neither agreeing nor disagreeing with Bill White or the Morning Call. What I am saying that an unfortunate part of Lehigh Valley life is ad hominem attacks on people who aren't "from" the Lehigh Valley.

Leaving aside the question of whether a person has to spend 100% of a lifetime in a place to "understand" the issues in it, I'd say a person who has spent his entire professional life in Allentown at least be disagreed with with respect on that point.

My comment on the "old guard" merely states that those most qualified by residence to lead Allentown "correctly" in the 1960s and 1970s proved unequal to the task of adjusting the city to new economic reality. Maybe then an outside perspective would have been helpful, but we were stuck with "that's not how we do it here." We're suffering for that provincialism now.

Apologies for breaking the no-conversation rule.

michael molovinsky said...

@8:15,, allentown did try and stay relevant, by building the hilton and the canopy. later, even tearing down the canopy was yet another attempt.

Anonymous said...

Michael, you are spot on about the lack of institutional knowledge at the two local dailies. When I worked for the ET, I asked the editor if they were going to do something on Robert Litz's passing. His response was "who is that"?

Only a 35-year member of the EASD school board and multi term president. Apparently that did not resonate because it was ignored. If it ain't Larry Holmes or Mario andretti, he don't know about it.