Talking Out Of Their Asses

Aimai knows how to get me going:

As they wandered in the field discussing ways of forcing google to make a deal to charge for page views of newspaper content (good luck with that!) and insisted to me that no blogs could make enough selling their content to make it worth the bloggers while I brought up Nate Silver ( and DailyKos). Sure, they said, startled that they actually knew somebody’s name but unaware that Nate might be classed as a blogger–*he* has a product to sell, his expertise, but…but…he must be some kind of exceptional case. Because they had never thought of him before, and knew him primarily from his TV appearances, they didn’t grasp the way Nate’s blog and the special election coverage and polling that he had done busted wide open the barriers they thought existed between journalism and blogging. But hey, lets not let facts get in the way of a good group grope on the subject.

First of all, aimai, how do you not tell me you’re I.F. Stone’s granddaughter?

*genuflects and leaves offering of scotch on altar made of stacks of books*

Second, oh my God nail meet head. This goes back to my memorable encounter with Owen Ullman from USA Today when he spent two hours on an academic panel railing about blogs and then admitted he didn’t read any. It’s the same “accepted narrative vs. actual story” problem we identify with political coverage, where you report the thing everybody knows (John Kerry’s a Frenchman who loves him some Al Qaeda cock) versus the thing that exists (John Kerry’s actual foreign policy agenda). It’s why Obama had a Jewish problem and a Latino problem and a woman problem and a blue-collar problem. Becausejust because, okay?!!! They call it conventional wisdom but it’s neither.

Just once I wish these smug types would recall the existence of free newspapers. Forget blogging, since the sight of a laptop seems to make them insane. Let’s talk about newspapers, dead tree publications, which subsist on advertising sold on the basis of eyeballs, not subscriptions. Harder to sell than guaranteed subscription numbers, maybe a bit, but most of them seem to do just fine untiltheir owners, too, begin actively hosing them:

When a potential new audience was moving onto the Internet, the Reader declined to follow. The Chicago Tribune, the paper dinosaur the Reader had been born to challenge, beat us to the Net with an entertainment site called Metromix. In 2004, the Reader, which had once defined hipness, finally tried to get hip again. The editors insisted on shorter stories, added features on fashion, and hired a tattooed, twenty-seven-year-old stripper to write a late-night party column. They also came out with a new design that finally brought color to the front page. The Trib’s media critic hailed it as bringing the paper “into the late 1990s.” The establishment daily was tweaking the alternative weekly for being behind the times. On the day the new cover debuted, I handed out copies at an L stop in Lincoln Park. Gray-haired men and women rushed to grab copies. But no one under thirty would touch one.

I’ve had this piece bookmarked for a long time but every time I try to write about it the pointless nostalgia makes me tired for the same reasons the blathering ignoramuses above annoyed; deliberate stupidity by the upstairs of a news organization does not mean my generation sucks, or that you get to bitch that your audience doesn’t want serious news anymore. For chrissakes.

It is in the long-term best interests of newspaper “executives” and news corporation owners that the rank and file in the newsroom be tribally pissed off at the Internet. So long as people trying to write honestly about the world around them — whether that’s online and using the word fuck a lot, or via underground pamphlet cranked out on mimeograph or in nice neat columns on InDesign before being put to a press — are encouraged to bicker amongst ourselves, maybe we won’t notice all the money going out the back door, being loaded onto trucks and the boss’s Mercedes, and being driven off into the sunset.


4 thoughts on “Talking Out Of Their Asses

  1. Hey athenae, I couldn’t really just post bio and run, you know? Its funny you mention the Chicago reader, what a great paper that used to be! I met mr. aimai through the personals on that paper. So sad to see it go down in a blaze of stupidity.

  2. I remember the Stranger in Seattle back when it was relevant. It was almost an act of subversion to be seen picking one up, if you could find one outside of Capital Hill or the Market. Oh, to be young again.
    All governments lie. Boy, you couldn’t find a more fitting statement of legacy for the last 8 years.
    Well, OK, the last 200 years but comparing the last 8 to previous administrations in this regard is like comparing the Moon Shot to a prairie schooner.
    thanks, aimai. seems the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

  3. I’m so glad that I didn’t know the Izzy/aimai relationship. That way, I have been able to read things from aimai FIRST and now can appropriately conclude, “Yup, that makes sense!”

  4. What? Did all the owners attend some sort of workshop where they were told this is good for business?
    The editors insisted on shorter stories, added features on fashion, and hired a tattooed, twenty-seven-year-old stripper to write a late-night party column. They also came out with a new design that finally brought color to the front page.
    Our local daily, a Cox property–on the market, IIRC–followed suit. And now its editor is complaining about the lack of civility from the public in the paper’s blogs. And whining about what on earth might be done about it. I suspect that he thought blogs would bring traffic w/o having to pay reporters more. Too bad he has no clue about moderation and the time involved. Just thinks it all magically appears with Santa and sleighbells and goodwill to all.
    /rant off

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