Cherry Blossoms and Newspapers

Spring  is arriving in  fits and starts this year—sun, blue skies, cherry blossoms, rain, cold winds, sun, blue skies, cherry blossoms. The cherry blossoms have burst all around Washington and just as precipitously will fall from the trees, leaving a pink and white carpet over the city for a day or two until the winds blow the petals away.  This coming weekend as the blossoms peak, the city will fill with blossom watchers, the Jefferson Memorial in particular where the cherry trees ring the Potomac River. Whether the weather is warm, cold, rainy, snowy, or sunny, the cherry blossoms herald the official start of spring for Washington, D.C.

A year ago as the cherry blossoms arrived, we were in the throes of the presidential primaries. The debate then was whether words and ideals were enough from candidates, whether they would lead to effective action. Today we watch actions every day from the new administration. We wait to see how effective the actions will be for the economy, for education, for international trade, for peace. Unfortunately the capacity to report and investigate and evaluate government’s actions is increasingly hampered as newspapers around the country struggle to survive.

Last month Denver’s 150-year old Rocky Mountain News shut down as have 120 other US newspapers this year.  The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia InquirerBaltimore Sun, and Minneapolis Star-Tribune have all filed for bankruptcy.  Approximately 16,000 American reporters have lost their jobs in the last year and even more losses are expected in 2009. Papers are closing bureaus, in particular their Washington bureaus. Even the great gray lady The New York Times is reported to be struggling and furloughing staff, cutting pay and laying off people. The Washington Post is buying out contracts of hundreds of its reporters and trimming its staff.

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