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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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May 14, 2008 4:24 PM

Newsday's independence

Posted by Ryan Blethen

In a post earlier this week about Cablevision buying Newsday from Tribune I wrote that I was not sure what the new ownership would mean for the Long Island newspaper. Cablevision is a company I am only familiar with by name.

Since the sale was announced earlier this week I have been reading stories from New York area newspapers to try and get a sense for how Newsday and Cablevision will co-exist. The signs are not good. Stories in the New York Times and New York Observer portray Cablevision's CEO Jim Dolan as thin-skinned and no fan of the press.

Not good traits for somebody who just through down $650 million for a newspaper. The stories also quoted Newsday employees who are nervous about Dolan. It did not help that he was not available for an interview and did not give a quote about his newest acquisition. Dolan did give an interview to a cable station owned by Cablevision.

I imagine that was demoralizing for a newsroom that has been repeatedly squeezed by Tribune. At the very least he could have e-mailed a quote, or better yet, let it be known that he intends to come in soon for a staff meeting.

Newsday had a story today looking at what the new owners will mean for news coverage. The newsroom is in a tough place. Cablevision owns the New York Rangers, Knicks, and Madison Square Garden. Cablevision is also based on Long Island and is a major cable player in New York and surrounding states. How will Dolan react when a columnist blasts the Knicks or Rangers? What about hard hitting stories on Cablevision?

If Newsday is going to work under the Cablevision umbrella it is imperative that the newspaper retain its journalistic independence. Newsday's best defense against allegations of being soft on Cablevision and all it owns is solid journalism. Hopefully Dolan gets that. Otherwise he just wasted $650 million.

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