>Do we hold up small-town newspapers,
>which usually seem like promotional sheets for local car dealers and
>realtors, as a model?
I vote yes. Even if the major advertizers are indeed "local car dealers and realtors"...so what? Would you rather have Vanguard, Arco and the late, great Iridium? Small town advertizers (though admittedly small-minded) are--generally--much less politically coercive (and more easily id'd) than the big money behind (or inside) the NYT or the Wash. Post. In the West, many of the local papers were started and owned by the mining/timber companies (Hearst's Homestake was one, but Anaconda was the Ted Turner of its day, owning nearly every paper in Montana, which they used to call quite openly for the blood of the Wobblies) and now have passed into other less vicious hands. For trenchant critiques of NAFTA and Big Ag read the Great Falls Tribune. For info on the oil conglomerates few papers are better than the Anchorage Daily News. Frankly, I much prefer papers such as the Billings Gazette, Santa Fe New Mexican or Caspar Star-Tribune to the NY or LA Times, papers' where the editor's grim and homogenizing touch is much less evident and sometimes the writer's own voice is allowed to percolate through. If you read these papers long enough, you begin to recognize all the characters (even if you live 800 miles away) and watch the political economy unfold through daily events. The experience can be not unlike reading a serialized Victorian novel by, say, Anthony Trollope. Plus, the yard sales are easier to find.
As for Tina B.'s commentary on celebrity--the Wash. Post really set the trend when Ben Bradlee unveiled Sally Q.'s Style section, didn't they? From then on, dance, art, architecture, book and film reviews, social soirees and political gossip were all clumped together and treated as similar exhibitions in celebrity.
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