February 21, 2007 — Eric Klinenberg, at the Shorenstein Center’s brown-bag lunch, discussed his book Fighting For Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media. A sociologist at New York University, Klinenberg described the book as a “sociological ethnographic study” that addresses a central question on the minds of many media scholars, news consumers, and particularly journalists themselves: What happened to America’s once-rich supply of local media?
Through a combination of first-hand observation of newsrooms across the country and exhaustive interviews with everyone from newspaper readers to media policymakers, Klinenberg examined the consequences of the current era of media consolidation. Among the key observations he discussed is the “empty newsroom” phenomenon: according to Klinenberg, as local media outlets are subsumed by corporate conglomerates, reporters’ beats — and jobs — are being eliminated with disconcerting regularity.
“I am very concerned about the disappearance of journalists from newsrooms,” Klinenberg said, noting that in every newsroom he visited, there was literally always an empty desk for him to use. He added that recent regulatory changes by the Federal Communications Commission, which have essentially allowed corporations to legally monopolize local media, have been “disastrous” for the public interest.