Love, commitment to community, the meaning of place—none of those items appear in corporate ledgers. In the best commentaries yet on the meaning of Woster's retirement, Bernie Hunhoff at South Dakota Magazine and David Newquist at Northern Valley Beacon make clear why corporate media are inimical to Wosterian journalism:
The problem with corporate-owned media is the nature of corporations. Corporations are bureacracies. They operate on the same kind of self-interest that government bureaucracies do. The current economic plight of our country and the world, in fact, is the result of corporate management. Bureaucracies do not honor and reward high-mindedness. They cater to the greedy, the devious, the ill-intentioned. Their intellectual and moral guidepost is the bottom line. And so Gannett, which announced job cuts previously last summer, ordered a 10 percent staff reduction late last month. The objective is totally to carry out the management order. The quality of journalism is not a consideration [David Newquist, "Requiem for the Fourth Estate," Northern Valley Beacon, 2008.11.15].
As Hunhoff makes clear, journalism, telling the stories of South Dakota, is about much more than following orders from distant rulers and making money:
I tend to agree with the fellow who blames the hometown publishers for selling out their communities. A weekly or daily paper (and I'd like to believe the same is true of our magazine) is a public trust. If you're blessed to have the privilege of being the caretaker of it for a few years, then one of your biggest concerns should be to pass it onto another generation who will care for it as you tried to do.
The same may be true of land owners and business owners in general. But certainly when it comes to the Fourth Estate, the people of the United States would be better served with five thousand independent and creative newspapers and magazines than the fluff and mush served up by today's corporate media [Bernie Hunhoff, "Terry Woster: Who's to Blame?" South Dakota Magazine: Editor's Notebook, 2008.11.15].
According to Mr. Epp, Terry Woster is 65. He's done his service. But what attention will that Sioux Falls paper and other corporate media give to hiring committed community journalists to continue that service?
I haven't seen (or produced) a blog yet that that approaches Woster's oeuvre in quality. But as corporate cost-cutting pushes Woster from the stage, someone's got to keep an eye on what's happening in South Dakota. Citizen journalists, duty calls!