2009: The year of “cheap” journalism

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, my local paper, today published a pair of articles aimed at saving people money. Both articles were written by reporter Jessica Mayrer.

The first, which headlined the Chronicle’s Web site, tells us that employees who bike to work are eligible for a $20-per-week tax-free federal reimbursement, paid out through their employers. This reward for bicycling workers comes courtesy of the bailout package approved by Congress late last year.

The second article, a lifestyle feature called “Dining on Dimes,” is mostly composed of a list of tips to help people save money on their food budgets by preparing foods at home from scratch and being smart about leftovers and meal planning. Most of the tips in this article were culled from the people working at the Bozeman Community Food Co-op, a grocery store specializing in local foods and organics.

I question the timing of the second article for one reason only: the co-op recently laid off 27 of its part-time workers. Now the store is the source for a story that aims at showing people how to eat cheaply. Seems like — perhaps unintended — advice for the outgoing workers, if you ask me.

We’re going to see more articles like this over the coming year, espousing the time honored habits of baking your own bread and cooking from scratch, promoting the Protestant work ethic and scrimping and saving.

With the economic downturn, it’s inevitable that people will look for ways to save money, and journalists will be there to write stories about those people because it’s the right message to put out to the country right now. And when journalists can’t find penny-pinchers to report on, they will come up with advice articles, such as Mayrer’s food article.

And so begins 2009, the year of “cheap” journalism.


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