Washington Sketch: Newspapers Get Some Old-Fashioned Love in the Senate

By Dana Milbank
Thursday, May 7, 2009

They came as if to their own funeral.

Reporters from Hearst, USA Today, McClatchy, the Dallas Morning News, The Washington Post, the Washington Times and the Boston Globe -- their employers in varying stages of decline or death -- took their places at the press table for a Senate subcommittee hearing yesterday titled "The Future of Journalism."

"I hope I get laid off," one of the reporters could be heard telling a Senate staffer, "so I can get the severance."

A newspaper industry official introduced James Moroney, publisher of the Dallas Morning News, to Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). "He's a real, live newspaper publisher!" the official marveled.

The eulogies were read.

"An older order is dying," said Steve Coll, former managing editor of The Post.

"High-end journalism is dying in America," testified David Simon, creator of HBO's "The Wire," who wore an open-collar black sport shirt for the somber occasion.

The names of the fallen were read aloud.

"The 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News ceased publishing altogether this year," the panel's chairman, John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), said before mentioning the deaths or near-deaths of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Christian Science Monitor, the Detroit Free Press and his home-state Boston Globe.

"The Albuquerque Tribune has folded in the last couple of years," said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

"If I could just add one more to that list -- that's the Baltimore Sun, my hometown paper, in bankruptcy," offered Cardin.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) must have felt left out. "Whether you read The Washington Post or my hometown newspaper, the Murdo Coyote, all of those newspapers make a contribution to their communities," he said.

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