Archive for March 29th, 2008

by Pete Talbot

Which does a better job of serving democracy: the (dying) newspaper industry or the (surging) Internet and its related blogs?

“… it is impossible not to wonder what will become of not just news but democracy itself, in a world in which we can no longer depend on newspapers to invest their unmatched resources and professional pride in helping the rest of us to learn, however imperfectly, what we need to know.”

That excerpt is taken from this week’s New Yorker magazine and a fine, analytical article by Eric Alterman.

Your daily newspaper is on the ropes. I’ve written about this before. It’s trying to make the digital transition but hasn’t really succeeded. I’ll read a blog site from a specific reporter but do I read the Missoulian’s catch-all blog, Western Montana 360? Do I visit the paper’s video inserts on its website? Hardly ever. This isn’t what I look for in journalism and it also seems so far behind the curve. Reporters are already overtaxed, don’t make them shoot and edit video, and blog.

But Alterman’s piece isn’t solely a defense of the old “dead tree” medium:

“The Web provides a powerful platform that enables the creation of communities; distribution is frictionless, swift, and cheap. The old democratic model was a nation of New England towns filled with well-meaning, well-informed yeoman farmers. Thanks to the Web, we can all join in a Deweyan (as in John Dewey, an advocate for democratic education) debate on Presidents, policies, and proposals. All that’s necessary is a decent Internet connection.”

Blogs are currently niche driven. I blog, obviously, but I’m also a bit of a dinosaur. Reading the newspaper each morning is as ritual for me as salat (prayer) for a Muslim. It connects me to the rest of the masses, albeit diminishing, who read the newspaper — and not only current news events but sports, features, editorials and letters. I also find out what Dilbert’s up to, if Lindsay is still in rehab and whether the cross-dressing husband in Dear Abby really needs counseling. Reading the newspaper keeps me part of a well-rounded, informed community.

What troubles me about blogging and the Internet is it’s potential for narrowing the discourse. If all I read is Daily Kos or, how can I understand other’s perspectives?

Alterman sums it up:

“And so we are about to enter a fractured, chaotic world of news, characterized by superior community conversation but a decidedly diminished level of first-rate journalism. The transformation of newspapers from enterprises devoted to objective reporting to a cluster of communities, each engaged in its own kind of “news”––and each with its own set of “truths” upon which to base debate and discussion––will mean the loss of a single national narrative and agreed-upon set of “facts” by which to conduct our politics.”

It’s a conundrum. I’m hoping for the best — a melding of the objective, professional journalistic standards and resources of the print medium with the accessibility, speed and democracy of the Internet. I fear the worst — the lack of resources of the blogosphere to, for example, set up a bureau in Baghdad or do a five-part series on Darfur; and all we have left is the narrow bantering of self-anointed elites who have no stake in consensus, or understanding of the world around them.

by jhwygirl

At least locally, it seems. I got this yesterday:

This week the mortgage insurance companies changed their critria on the loans they would insure. They will no longer insure 100% loans-and the 80/20 (100%) are also no longer available. The only 100% financing available is for VA loans (if you are a veteran) or Rural Development Loans (home outside the city limits and must meet maximum income requirements).If you or someone you know was planning on 100% financing, please visit with your lender and see what other options you might have. This may eliminate some buyers from the market place-so sellers have to be aware of that when looking at offers or helping with buyers costs.

I found this reference to those new rules, in the Toledo Blade:

In the past several months, mortgage lenders and insurers have drastically tightened their lending requirements for home loans, especially in more than 9,600 ZIP codes across 34 states that are experiencing the worst economic problems.

The Missoula area must be one of those 9,600 ZIP codes.

Anyone who’s following this stuff believes that the housing sector is going to get worse before it gets better. This is certainly evidence of it.

Someone tell me – how long does it take on a typical loan/house purchase to get into equity? It’s that gap, it appears, that the insurance companies aren’t willing to hedge their bets on anymore. Prices are dropping, and will continue to drop significantly. That is what these “new rules” are saying to me. Maybe I’ve got that wrong?

On another note – I find the whole Rural Development Loan thing interesting. Financed by the Federal government, aren’t they just a government-sanctioned endorsement of taxpayer pocketbook draining sprawl?

Shouldn’t it be just the opposite? Shouldn’t the federal government want to assist on loans that would ensure efficient use of state and federally funded transportation systems? Utility infrastructure?

Again, maybe I’m wrong.

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