He's got Wilford Brimley's jowls, a roly-poly stomach, worried eyes, and a slight snarl that could be mistaken for an under-bite. Meet the Palm Beach Post's latest mascot, a bulldog that appeared in a full-page ad in Tuesday's paper above the headline: "The Palm Beach Post, Your Community Watchdog."
The pooch's misguided cuteness would be funny, if it weren't such an apt metaphor for the paper. See, not so long ago, the Post was a proud purveyor of the kind of muckraking investigative journalism the ad touts. Its reporters brought down three corrupt Palm Beach County commissioners, hounded the notoriously inept state Department of Children and Families, explored the roots of "modern-day slavery" for Mexican farm workers.
But since massive buyouts and layoffs eliminated 300 employees last year, the paper has become a depressed, jowly, shadow of its former self. Some of its ace investigative reporters, such as Tom Duobocq, who wrote many of the articles exposing former Palm Beach County Commissioner Tony Masilotti's dirty land deals, no longer work there. Others have been reassigned to beats that chain them to their desks or leave them ambulance-chasing to feed the website's need for breaking news.
The print edition of the paper is anemically thin, and the bosses, like editors at newspapers all over the country, can't seem to figure out if they want to sell hard-nosed journalism or sex, mug shots, and "swirl girls." This ambivalence is reflected in the bulldog ad, which contains the caption: "Relentless investigative journalism -- it's not the only thing we do, but it's one of the most important."
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Hmm, so journalism is still kinda important at a daily newspaper. Good to know. We'll see what happens after the next round of layoffs, expected later this month. Will the drooling bulldog still have a job?